Honour based Violence

It is extremely important for students of Women’s Studies to understand the socio-cultural roots of the kind of violence against women which is called ‘honour crime’ or ‘honour-based violence’, the most extreme form of which is ‘honour killing’. I say this because it is the modern, aspiring youth of today who can bring about a positive transformation that can put an end to this scourge. ‘Honour crime’ is an entirely different category of violence which is perpetrated within the family and community.

Unlike other kinds of domestic violence, it is not considered ‘a private matter’ concerning a family, nor is it abhorred by the community. Rather, it is deliberately committed in public or is widely publicized to instill fear within other members of the community and make them conform to outdated patriarchala norms. It also enjoys social sanction and is often committed with the active participation of a number of other members of the family or community. The phenomenon of ‘honour killing’ has been prevalent not only in India, but in many parts of the world like Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, the Middle East, Mediterranean and Persian Gulf countries, France, Germany and U.K.(reported by Special Rapporteur appointed by the UN), as well as Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, India, Israel, Italy, Sweden and Uganda, North America, Canada and Latin America ( reports collected by the U N Commission on

Human Rights).One may say that ‘honour crimes’ are not region- or religion-specific, but span various countries, religions, cultures, communities as well as historical periods. Honour killing is the most extreme form of punishing people, mostly women, in the name of honour, be it the honour of the family, the clan, village, caste, community or religion. Yet, many governments, including that of India, have not collated data relating to honour crimes. So, in India, it had never figured in the NCRB data. It was only in 2014 that the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India has begun collection of such data through the National Crime Report Bureau. The task, however, will prove to be challenging, due to the fact that reporting of such incidents is either rare or often false. For example, a case of honour killing could be made out to be a case of suicide or simply murder by a third person for other reasons ( Aarushi Murder case [Noida, May 2008] and the Badaun sisters’ case [Badaun, U.P. May 2014]) The Ministry of Law and Justice began preparing ‘The Prohibition of Interference with Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance Bill’ to curb incidents of honour killing, only since last year. The Bill is yet to be placed before the Parliament. This step has come as fallout of the mass upsurge against the Nirbhaya Rape and Killing case, which led to several recommendations by Justice J.S. Verma in his voluminous report, which has included honour killing as a serious crime against women (also men belonging to lower castes or class, and minority, in some cases).

Honour Killing- most dishonorable
When we talk of ‘honour Killing’ it actually means killing men or women in the name of honour; the term ‘honour killing having been introduced by a Dutch scholar of Turkish origin, Ane Nauta, in 1978, to separate such killings from other killings in the family and community.
There has, however been a lot of debate by women’s Organisations and social activists as to why this kind of extreme violence should be termed ‘honour killing’, since there is absolutely nothing honorable about it; some have even proposed that it be called ‘dishonorable killing’ or ‘customary killing. The UN has also opposed this terminology for the reason that the term ‘risks reinforcing discriminatory misconceptions that males embody the ‘honour’ of the family and the community’. Kofi Anan, when he was UN Secretary General, had called it ‘shame killing’.
The question arises as to whose ‘honour’ is being referred to? More often than not, ‘honour’ here means the so-called honour of a particular community which may be religious, caste-based, even sub-caste or ‘gotra-based’ (In Hindu society, the term gotra means clan. It broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor or patriline or sometimes village-based; it may also mean ‘family honour’. A broader definition of ‘honour killing’ may be ‘homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the perpetrators' belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family or community’, usually for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, opting out of an arranged marriage being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways or adopting lifestyles that are deemed inappropriate (actually, westernized or modern), or engaging in homosexual relations. It is another matter that the perpetrators themselves may have been involved in several dishonorable acts in the past, for example, rape, incest, violence on spouse, corruption and even murders; yet they hold the right to mete out ‘justice’ to all those who are under their patriarchal control. They may, at times, delegate this responsibility to their younger brothers, sons or members of the community to which they belong. (Bharti case, Kakerkheda, Meerut, Feb. 2015)

Incidence all over the world and in India

In 2000, the UN estimated that there are about 5000 honour killings every year. In 2002 and again in 2004, the U.N. brought a resolution to end honour killings and other honour-related crimes. In 2004, at a meeting in The Hague about the rising tide of honour killings in Europe, law enforcement officers from the U.K. announced plans to begin reopening old cases to see if certain murders were, indeed, honour murders. The number of honour killings is routinely underestimated, and most estimates are little more than guesses that vary widely. In India, it is estimated that there are 1000 honour killings every year. The phenomenon is most prevalent in the Western and North Western parts of India, viz. Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi, Western U.P., as well as in M.P., Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra; sporadic incidents are seen in other parts of India, recently one in West Bengal, in the month of January 2014, where a girl was ordered to be gang raped for having relations with a married man from another community and village. 

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