This article is written by Akshat Mehta, a student at the Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
INTRODUCTION AND MEANING
The term Honor killing is also termed sometimes as ‘Shame Killing’. Both men and women are the victims of Honor Killings but over the period of time secondary data suggests that females are the primary and most victims of Honor killings. The term ‘Honor’ in itself is somewhat confusing because it points towards crimes such as ‘Honorable’. The term purposefully indicates that such crimes are the product of the culture, customs and traditions, societal norms, community values, mores and folkways and legal sanctions by the community or society.
Honor Killing is widely criticized by Human Rights activists and advocates of hardcore feminism. Human rights activists often compare Honor Killings with ‘Crimes of Passion’ in the context of Tort Law it is equivalent to the tort of ‘Grave and Sudden Provocation’, which justifies even death if caused due to sudden outrage and provocation. However, the feminist perspective questions these killing in a way that it is an assault on a woman’s autonomy which attempts to have a hold over female’s sexuality and her choices regarding sexual autonomy.
CHARACTERISTICS OF HONOR KILLING
The main characteristics of Honor Killing are:
- Honor Killings are often organized by family members and sometimes by the official ‘family council’.
- Threat of death is usually used by the perpetrators to control the behavior of victims in regard to marriage by choice and freedom of sexual intercourse.
- Family members used to do Honor Killings in order to avoid social stigma and community pressure and also to avoid having a negative image in the tight-knit communities.
- Such killings are widely supported by the community in which it is practised and often considered as a matter of pride.
METHODS USED IN KILLING
The most commonly used techniques or methods for killing are stabbing, hanging, burning, stoning, beating, throat slashing, acid attacks, beheading, strangulation and shooting. Such methods of killing are used in public so that a perfect example could be set amongst others and also a deterrent effect could be made.
COMPARISON WITH OTHER FORMS OF KILLINGS
Honor Killings are often compared by feminists with other gender biased crimes like Dowry Death, Gang Rapes, Sexual Assault, Sexual Molestation and Criminal Force against Woman. On the other hand by the advocates of Human Rights it is also compared with ‘Crimes of Passion’.
Sometimes it is also compared with the earlier Doctrine of ‘Blood Atonement’ which was practiced in the history of Mormonism in which a sinner was killed in such a way that his blood would fall on the ground which would be considered as a sacrifice.
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE TO THE CRIME
Honor killings are widely criticized worldwide as a violation of Human Rights. Some of the international organizations which criticized Honor Killings are:
- The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 55/66 by the name “Working towards the elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour”.
- As per the World Health Organization (WHO) “Murders of women to ‘save the family honour’ are among the most tragic consequences and explicit illustrations of embedded, culturally accepted discrimination against women and girls.”
- Article 42 of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence recognizes Honor killings as ‘Unacceptable justifications for crimes, including crimes committed in the name of so-called honour’.
- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also recognizes Honor Killing as illegal and prescribes various guidelines to eradicate the crime from the grass root.
HONOR KILLING IN INDIAN CONTEXT
In India Honor Killing is prevalent mostly in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. In states like Gujarat and Maharashtra it is practiced only in some parts while, in the state of West Bengal it was completely eradicated almost two decades ago. In India Honor killings are done if children or a member of a particular community marry or had a sexual intercourse with the person of another community (outside that community) and the community norms doesn’t allow to do so.
The problem in India with regards to Honor Killing is that cases were under-reported and neither print nor electronic media has the exact data regarding Honor Killings. Also in India we don’t have any specific provision of law or act which deals with the issue of Honor Killings, mostly this issue is dealt in the provisions of IPC, CrPC and Constitution of India. The National Commission for Women, National Human Rights Commission and sometimes National Commission of Scheduled Castes and National Commission of Scheduled Tribes have some reported data related to Honor Killings. As per India’s NCRB data report there was only 1 reported case of Honor Killing was there in 2018 in Delhi and also in 2017 there was only a single reported case was there from Gujarat, while there was not a single case reported from the state of Tamil Nadu. However, some NGO’s and investigative agencies claimed that there are more than 195 cases were in the last five years occurred only in the state of Tamil Nadu and there are almost more than 8000 cases of Honor Killings were there in this decade.
VIOLATION OF RIGHTS AND PROSECUTION
In India, Honor Killing is not explicitly declared as a crime as India doesn’t have any statute or law which specifically prescribed punishment for the crime of Honor Killings but the prosecution could be done under Indian Penal Code and also principles of Constitution could be made applicable in order to start proceedings against the offenders of such crime.
Under Article 32 of Constitution of India (Right to Constitutional Remedies) the victim and his/her family members could approach the Supreme Court for the violation of ‘Right to life and personal liberty’ under Article 21 and ‘Right to freedom’ under Article 19(1).
As per Section 300 and 302 of Indian Penal Code offenders of Honor Killings could be held liable for Murder and could be punished with death or life imprisonment respectively.
Specifically if any woman or girl becomes the victim of honor Killing then offender could be made liable under Section 354 of IPC which prescribes Punishment for ‘Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty’. Also offenders could be made liable under Section 509 of IPC which prescribes punishment for ‘Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman’.
LANDMARK CASES RELATED TO HONOR KILLINGS
- Smt. Chandrapati vs State Of Haryana And Others (aka Manoj-Babli Case): In June 2007, Manoj and Babli, from Karora village in Kaithal district, were fatally murdered by Babli’s family and relatives. The cruel act was committed on Khap Panchayat’s orders for marriage in the same gotra. Two decomposed bodies were recovered in Hisar on June 23 from the Barwala branch canal. Further investigation provided startling details. The pair had been asked to consider each other as brother and sisters. They resisted and instead pesticides were forcibly administered to them. They were strangled to death and their bodies were dumped into the river. Later on, the death sentence to the offenders of the victims was commuted in life imprisonment by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to which one Dr. Sangwan said “Apart from the fact that two innocent children were killed mercilessly and brutally, it was a crime against society and hence was ‘rarest of rare’ in nature. Unfortunately, very few cases of Honor Killings come to light and even fewer reach the courtroom. But if Justice is curbed like this; Khap panchayats are above law.”
- Shakti Vahini v. Union of India (2018): Writ petition has been documented under Article 32 of the Constitution of India looking for bearings to the respondents-the state and the local governments to find a way to battle Honor Crimes, to present a National and State Plan of activity to check wrongdoings of the said nature and further to guide the State Governments to establish exceptional cells in each locale which can be drawn closer by the couples for their security and prosperity. Additionally, supplications have been made to give a writ of mandamus to the State Governments to dispatch indictments for each situation of Honor killings and for taking fitting measures so all such Honor Crime and installed evil in the mentality of specific individuals from the general public are managed suitably.
In this case, there were two issues raised;
. Whether an individual has a right to choose the life partner of his/her choice?
. Whether Honor Killings undertaken by Khap Panchayat’s are legal?
The Court held that honour-based violence is not only a matter of criminal law but also it is contrary to the fundamental rights of Right to dignified life and Right to freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 21 and Article 19(1)(a) respectively. The court in this case also held that “the consent of the family or the community or the clan is not necessary once the two adult individuals agree to enter into wedlock. Moreover, any communal body that commits, or attempts to commit, any crime in the name of honour against such a couple will be held liable under the Indian Penal Code. The court also laid down certain preventive, remedial and punitive measures that must be implemented by the governments to safeguard the said right of the individuals.”
CONCLUSION: A NEED TO BRING CHANGE IN MINDSET
There is a serious need to rethink and reevaluate unfair, arbitrary and conservative communal practices. Practices such as Blood Atonement, Dowry and Sati were abolished and avoided by the society over the period of time and in the same way the practice of ‘Honor Killing’ is to be eradicated from the society. We are living in the 21st century and on a serious note there is a necessity to come out of such social structure which is pulling the world back towards deterioration.
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