“Killing in the name of family honour, India and Beyond?”

 “Killing in the name of family honour, India and Beyond?”


Honour killing is defined as a death inflicted on a woman or man by their own family members for marrying against their will or having a pre-marital relationship, marrying within the same gotra (caste), or marrying outside their caste. Other causes that can lead to honour killing include losing one's virginity before marriage and so on.

In other words, the term “honour killing” is a misnomer for a ritualistic kind of murder triggered by the aggressor’s perceived loss of honour, in which the offenders are usually men and the victims are usually women. Honour killings are characterised as patterns of behaviour that cut across communities, cultures, faiths, and nations, manifesting themselves in a variety of forms of violence directed in the majority of cases.

 The key factor leading to this horrible crime is people's mentality, which refuses to recognise that their children can marry in accordance with their own preferences, whether inside or beyond their caste or religion. It is not always about caste or religion; in other cases, families murder their own children just because they do not want to be associated with a love marriage. When their daughters marry according to their own preferences, their so-called “izzat” decreases. They place the burden of their izzat on their daughter’s shoulders.

Certain Indian households demand their daughters to solely study and not leave the house except to attend school, and then to finish their education and marry the person selected by their family. They do not prioritise their daughters’ choices, nor do they consult them about their marriage plans, and having male companions is regarded as a sin.

Rule of Khap Panchayats

Honour killings are also caused by the presence of a khap panchayat. Women’s personal choices, such as how to dress and whom to marry, are influenced by khap panchayat decisions. Young girls are threatened, killed, and even forced to commit suicide as a result of khap verdicts. In these khap-ruled areas, there is no dispute about women’s rights.

Honour killing in India

Honour killing is not a new phenomenon in our country; it can be traced back to the time of our country's partition when several women were forcibly killed in order to maintain their honour. Articles 14, 15, 19, 21, and 39 of the Indian constitution prohibit honour crimes. The rise in the number of honour killings is due to the failure of formal governance to reach rural areas, and as a result, this practice persists. In recent times, killing for honour is not only confined to rural areas but is also common in metropolitan areas.

According to the National Crimes Record Bureau’s report for 2020, 25 occurrences of “honour killing” were documented the year before. In prior years, sources suggested that only one occurrence occurred in each of the years 2018 and 2017. However, according to a non-governmental organisation report in November 2019, 195 known cases of honour killings have been documented in Tamil Nadu alone in the previous five years. Clearly, a number of cases go unreported.

Honour killings have been reported across India, although they are most common in the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, as a result of persons marrying without their families’ approval, or for marrying outside their caste or religion. In South India and the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, on the other hand, honour killings are rare to non-existent. Honour killings were abolished in several parts of India, most notably West Bengal, about a century ago, owing to the activism and influence of reformists such as Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Vidyasagar, and Raja Ram Mohan Roy. 

Marriages between Rajputs and members of other castes can result in the deaths of the married couple and immediate family members. Rajput culture and traditional ideas on a lineage’s supposed “purity” are blamed for this type of honour killing.

Impact of honour killing

  • These crimes for the honour are a violation of human rights and a violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to live in dignity.

  • It demonstrates a lack of empathy, love, compassion, and tolerance among fellow human beings, resulting in a credibility deficit in the government’s ability to control such killings. 

  • It jeopardises the credibility of institutions such as the police and the judiciary.

  • It infringes on people’s freedom of choice and causes stress, anxiety, and trauma in the lower classes. 

  • It obstructs a nation’s cohesion, solidarity, and corporation. 

  • It disrupts the serenity and demonstrates a lack of rational thinking and emotional intelligence.

  • It is not a crime against any individual, but rather a crime against society as a whole when some people believe they are superior to others and are above the law. 

  • When such acts are performed, societal ethical principles such as tolerance, respect for diversity, self-determination, and so on are eroded.

Crimes committed in the name of honour, talk of savagery generated by social conservatism in response to the assertion of sexual rights and freedom of choice in love relationships According to media accounts, the likelihood of this type of violence is increased when one of the two consenting adults comes from a socially and economically disadvantaged community.

Is honour killing in India hypocritical or sexist?

For a variety of reasons, including refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of asexual assault, seeking a divorce even from an abusive husband, or supposedly committing adultery, a woman can be targeted by individuals within her family. This reveals the root of women’s subordination by specifically male aggression, on which the social order is predicated, an order riddled with hypocrisy and cowardice. The mere suspicion that a woman has acted in a way that “dishonours” her family is enough to prompt a life-threatening attack. Honour killings can also target men, but they happen less frequently (for example in the case of homosexuality).

Global scenario

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that 5,000 women and girls are killed in honour killings every year around the world, though some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) estimate as many as 20,000. Despite the lack of data, research demonstrates that honour killings occur among women of all ages, religions, social standing, money, education, and geographical location. The lack of awareness of each country’s culture, combined with the scarcity of data on honour killings, has contributed to the appalling magnitude of this form of violence remaining undetected.

The exact number of honour killings worldwide is unknown due to a lack of targeted reporting and tracking of honour killings around the world. Every year, 5000 honour killings occur around the world. In India, there are 1000 honour killings per year, in Pakistan, there are 1000 honour killings each year, and in the United Kingdom, there are 12 honour killings every year.

To prevent such crimes from occurring, people’s mentalities and social outlooks must first be altered. In the massacre of innocent young people, there is no honour involved, and who’s honour is being discussed? When we say that mentality needs to be changed, we mean that parents should accept their children’s wishes regarding marriage because they are the ones who will have to live with their life partners, and if they do not have a good understanding, their lives will be miserable, possibly leading to suicide. Furthermore, no human being has the authority to sentence a fellow human being to death over such trivial matters.

Previous Post Next Post