Honour Killing is a form of crime which is committed basically within the family and community. It is the homicide (murder) of a member of a family or community for the sake of honour. The term Honour Killing was first introduced in 1978 by a Dutch Scholar of Turkish Origin named Ane Nauta who wanted to separate such killing from other killing in the family and community. The practice of such social evil finds its deep roots from the idea that the honour of men lies in their women. It is also termed as “Customary Killing or Shame Killing”. Honour Killing is one of the most barbarous practices in the society where the communities never hesitate to kill the person or individual even if a slightest attempt is made by him/her which violates or breach the norms, conducts and social order of the society. Such crimes are generally committed deliberately in public inorder to teach a lesson to the member of the particular community to not to repeat the act. In the communities or societies where Honour Killing incline to occur, the people frequently use the concept of ‘honour’, ‘prestige’ and ‘shame’ inorder to evaluate his own conduct and that of his fellow ones.
What is Honour Killing?
Honour Killing is defined as an act of killing a member of a family or social group by other members of the family or social group due to the assassin having the belief that the said member has violated the principle of a community or a religion and has brought dishonor or shame upon the family or community he or she belongs to.
In general, it can be defined as a death awarded to a man or a woman or both of a family for marrying against the parent`s wishes having extra marital affairs and pre marital relationship, marrying in the same gotra or outside one`s caste.
Human Rights Watch define honor killing as “An acts of vengeance, usually death committed by male family members against female family members who are held to have brought disgrace upon the family by being romantically involved with or choosing to marry man outside their caste”.
Honour Killing is not constrained to one gender but such crimes are mostly directed towards women and girls who are killed at a much higher rate than men.
As per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report released in 2018, India witnessed total 28 cases in 2014,251 cases in 2015 and 77 cases in 2016 of crimes with motive as honour Killing.
As per the 242nd Report of Law commission of India the incidents of Honour based violence are mostly reported in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Tamil Nadu.
What is this whole thing about Honour referring to? Whose honour are we talking about? Is it the honour of a person or somebody else? Whose ‘honour’ is in question?
Here, Honour refers to prestige or esteem of a particular community which may be religious, caste-based even sub caste or gotra based as they believed that they have something called as honour. In a patriarchal dominating society the word honour doesn`t reflect the money, power or status of a family but unfortunately the honour lies in a chastity of a women.
Causes of Honour Killing in India
The main causes or reasons behind the practice of Honour crimes in India are as follows:
- Adopting lifestyle or dressing in a way or manners that are deemed to be appropriate and unacceptable by the family or community.
- Opting out of an arrange marriage and being in a relationship that is disapproved by their family and relatives.
- Terminating or refusing to enter an arrange marriage or desires to marry a man of her own choice or marrying against the wish of the family.
- Seeking a divorce or separation without the consent of the husband.
- Rumors or allegation about a female family member in certain culture and society.
- Having sex outside marriage
- Becoming the victim of rape, particularly girl or women.
- Engaging in homosexual acts or relation.
- Illiteracy and lack of awareness among the people about their rights.
Social authorization has been given to such crime. Members of the extended family or village community plan the act together and many times they act through a formal family councils or village council or Khap Panchayat which is strong enough to dismiss any kind of dissenting voice.
It is believed that there are certain acts and conduct which brings huge amount of disgrace and dis- respect to the whole family and if such acts are committed by any member of a family then it becomes mandatory to kill that person in order to regain their lost honour.
Punishment that are generally given to the victims of honour crimes are shaving head, restricting mobility, gang rape, naked parading , killing by brutally slashing throat, stabbing , burning, beheading, lethal acid attack etc or calling the boy and girl tactfully back to their houses and then forcibly marrying them to a person from same caste.
This raises a pertinent question
What is honourable about honour killing?
Is it fair to kill someone in the name of honour?
It is necessary for people to understand that “ There is nothing honourable in honour killing”. It is a brutal inhuman act which violates the rights of the victims. Killing or murdering someone only for the sake of honour or prestige doesn`t justify such barbarous act or the death of the victim.
State of Maharashtra vs Eknath Kisan Kumbharkar 2019
In this case deceased Pramila was the daughter of Eknath Kumbharkar ( accused). In year 2013 she performed an inter-caste love marriage with Deepak Kamble resident of Kamgar Nagar. Her father never accepted this marriage as he believed that his daughter has brought disgrace or shame to his social reputation by marrying a man of different caste. So he murdered his pregnant daughter. The accused was held guilty under section 364 of IPC and was awarded life Imprisonment.
Kevin Joseph Case 2018
In this case Kevin Joseph who belonged to a Dalit Christian family married a girl name Neeru Chacko belonging to a upper caste family against the wishes of Neeru’s family. On May 28th Kevin’s body was found near a river dam in Kollam District, Hyderabad. A special court was set up to fast track the hearing in this case and 10 accused were held guilty by the session court in an honour killing case and were awarded double life imprisonment.
T. Padmaja Vs The State of Telangana 2018
In this case Perumalla Pranay Kumar was stabbed, slashed throat and killed by the hired killers of his father in law while he was walking out of the hospital after medical checkup of his 5 months pregnant wife name Amrita towards their car parked outside a hospital. Pranay and Amrita marriage was against the wishes of Amrita’s family as they had an inter caste marriage.
In India there is no specific or codified law to address the menace of honour killing but there are certain statutory provisions and general laws to combat this crimes which are discussed further.
Honour Killing violates some of the provisions of the constitution such as Article 14 (Right to Equality); Article 15 (1) &(3) ( No discrimination on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth); Article 19 (freedom of speech and expression); Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty).
Existing Penalties under Indian Penal Code
Indian Penal Code 1860 provides certain penalties which are applied in case of Honour-based crimes. These are as follows:
- Section 299- Section 304: It penalizes any person guilty of murder and any person guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Punishment: For murder life sentences or death and fine and for culpable homicide imprisonment for 10 years and fine.
- Section 307- It penalizes attempt to murder.
Punishment: Imprisonment for 10 years which may extend to life imprisonment and fine if a person is hurt.
- Section 308- It penalizes an attempt to commit culpable homicide.
Punishment: Imprisonment for 3 years or with fine or with both.
- Section 120 A and B: It penalizes people who are a party to any criminal conspiracy.
Punishment: Imprisonment of 6 months
- Section 34 &35: It penalizes act which is criminal in nature committed by a group of people together with common intention.
In India for the first time life sentence was given to the accused of Honour Killing in case of Manoj and Babli ( 2010) who were killed by the order of Khap Panchayat as they married each other against the wishes of their families.
There is no specific law for dealing the Honour Killing but there are certain existing laws which provide protection from these social evils. Some of these laws are as follows:
- The Special Marriage Act, 1954:
This Act validate the inter caste and inter religion marriage as it allows marriages which are performed irrespective of caste and religion.
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005:
This Act combines civil remedies and criminal procedures to provide effective remedies to the women who becomes victims of domestic violence.
- The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989:
This Act prevents the atrocities against SC and ST as it is observed that majority of the cases of Honour Killings are related to differences between the caste and the social status.
- Honour and Traditional Bill, 2019:
In 2019 a bill was passed in the Rajasthan Assembly in order to curb the incidents of honour killing in the state with the provisions of punishment of death penalty or life imprisonment for murdering couples in name of family honour.
As we all know there has been a steady increase in honour based crime in India in past few decades. Despite of all the efforts made to tackle such problems there are still a number of people who are killed every year in the name of honour. There are still some people who believed that marrying against the family wishes or in different caste is a crime which brings disgrace to a family so in order to restore the honour and respect lost due to the above mentioned acts they choose to kill the person who has violated the norms and conditions of the society.
The most shocking facts in the context of honour killing are as follows:
Firstly, the offenders never regret their shameful acts rather their actions are glorified.
Secondly,the ways of killing are very heinous and brutal going beyond the limits of humanity.
Thirdly, the youth who are expected to bring about a social change in the society are also killing their sisters cousin in the name of honour killing.
Whatever be the reason or whoever be the perpetrator it is important to punish the offenders and make people aware of how cruel such social evil practice is. It is the need of the hour to bring equality among the sexes and to enact such comprehensive law through which we can combat the increasing menace of honour killing.
Author- Pinky Mehta (Chanakya Law College, Rudrapur)