Laws against Honour Crimes

So far, no law has been enacted to prevent honour crimes in India. The Ministry of Law and Justice has taken up the task of formulating ‘The Prohibition of Interference with Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance Bill’ since 2014. Earlier the NCW had proposed a Bill with the argument that, ‘…….these actions also violate certain fundamental rights in the Constitution of India, including the right to life, and liberty which includes the right to bodily integrity, and the right to choose whom to associate with.

The actions of the parents of the girls to stop her from exercising her choice also result in curtailment of her freedom to movement and expression. A valid consent to a Marriage is also an essential prerequisite under the law. However, no laws which punish crimes in the name of Honour exist in India. There are also no laws which punish the illegal and often barbaric actions of the Khap or community panchayats or other caste or religious organizations. Some offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are invoked to sometimes book offenders in these cases but these offences do not cover the entire gamut of illegal actions perpetrated in the name of honour or prescribe adequate punishment for these barbaric acts.


Since the phenomenon of ‘honour killing’ is deeply entrenched in age-old customs and traditions, it is extremely difficult to put an end to it through legislation alone, though one cannot but welcome a law which will act as a deterrent for the perpetrators as well as a weapon in the hands of young women and men who dare to challenge the status quo. It is more important that the issue of curbing women’s sexuality and suppressing their right to choose their own lifestyle and partners in the name of family or community ‘honour’ be brought into public discourse, so that politicians, caste and Khap leaders (cutting across Party lines), the media, social activists, the Judiciary and the Administration work together to understand the phenomenon and sensitize themselves as well as society at large on the gender as well as social dimensions of this social evil- how girls are forced into unhappy marriages and how this affects the mental and physical growth of their children, how the scourge is carried from one generation to the next and how insecurities multiply within unhappy families with violent relationships. Extreme and complex examples of collusion of the state, police, and the affluent class (e.g., a business magnate running Lux Cozi), have been exposed in the high-profile case of Rizwanur Rahman and Priyanka Todi of West Bengal (2007). Similar high-profile cases were those of Aarushi Talwar of Noida, U.P. and the Nitish Katara case, New Delhi. A positive effort in the direction of sensitizing society has been the initiative of several filmmakers. But we can say without doubt that sans a cultural revolution of sorts and powerful social movements against the caste system, patriarchy, class hegemony and communal hatred, one cannot think of hitting at honour-based violence. And we must not to forget that the modern, educated youth of India will have to play the role of vanguard in this struggle.

Affirmative Action
1. The Government must have a helpline for women (and men) who are facing the threat of honour killing and need protection.
2. Women’s Organisations, relatives and friends as well as the police should take all reported cases of threat seriously and act immediately.
3. Gender sensitization of communities as well as the police, judiciary and media are a must. The structural manifestations of violence against women should be understood.
4. Political leaders, Khap chiefs and religious leaders should be booked in cases of abetting honour crimes, when found to be violating the law.
5. Effective legislation should be in place to prevent forced marriage, honour crimes,
imposition of illegal diktats through violence, ostracizing of families and hate speeches against a particular community or family.
6. Social pressure should be mounted by civil society to make all parties involved accountable, viz. Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, the Judiciary, the District Administration and Police, the media, parents of the victims as well as heads of local bodies.

7. All Khaps should be declared illegal.

Links and References

a. Patriarchy:
a system of society or government where the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line.
b. NCRB: National Crime Records Bureau is an agency of the Indian Government responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code.
c. Endogamy: the custom of marrying only within the limits of a local community, clan or tribe.
d. Khap or Khap Panchayat : a union of a few villages, mainly from North India, which have acquired quasi-judicial power and wield authority over people of these villages.
e. Sarv Khap: A union of all Khaps of a particular region.

Some Interesting Facts
Films on Honour Killing
1. Love Sex aur Dhokha is a film made on the subject by Dibakar Banerjee in 2010,
2. Banaz, a Love Story, by Deeyah Khan was released in 2012 and is based on a real story of honour killing of Banaz Mahmod, a British Kurdish woman who was killed in South London in 2006. The Film received the Emmy Award for best documentary.
3. Land Gold Women was made by Avantika Hari in 2011 in English. It received the National Film Award for best feature film in English.
4. Another film based on the real life story of Manoj and Babli, directed by Ajai Sinha,and released in 2011, is called Khap-a Story of Honour Killing.
5. The Punjabi Film Honour Killing : Rabba Maaf Karen, directed by Avtaar Bhogal, a London based filmmaker was released in 2014 and focuses on honour killings among NRIs. The film is being dubbed in several languages, including English.
6. Producer Anoushka Sharma has also made a film directed by Navdeep Singh called NH10, which was released in 2014.
7. Another film directed by Xoel Pamos, a Texas-based director is The Price of Honour; it was released in 2015.
8. There are other films in the making, for example, Aakrosh, being directed by Priyadarshan and another being directed by an Australian filmmaker, Bill Bennet, centering around honour killings in India.
9. A TV serial highlighting the issue, based on a true story from Noida, was ‘Rishton se badi Pratha’ which was aired on Colours.

Points to ponder
· Why is honour killing most prevalent in the most affluent region in India, the region of the Green Revolution?
· Why do we find no relationship between the level of education of a family and its attitude on the question of ‘honour’?
· What is the reason behind the fact that women who have always been at the receiving end of patriarchal violence do not seem to feel any sympathy for their ‘erring’ daughters?
· How can the law be enforced, when the law-enforcing agency itself shares this patriarchal mind-set ?
· How does vote-bank politics play a role in reinforcing caste, patriarchy and communal hatred? What alternative kind of politics can solve the problem?
· Can community elders ever play a positive role in ending honour-based violence?

Suggestions for Further Reading:
1. Manoj and Babli A Hate Story by Chander Suta Dogra, Penguin Books(2013)
2. Burned Alive: a survivor of an ‘honour killing speaks out’ by Souad, Paperback edi tion from Warner Books (2005)
3. Killing Honour by Bali Rai, Random House Children’s Books (2011)
4. Murder in the Name of Honour by Rana Husseini, Oneworld Publication (2009)
5. Daughters of Shame by Jasvinder Sanghera, Hodder and Stoughton 2009
6. Maps for lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam, Faber and Faber Ltd. 2004
7. In the Name of Honour: a Memoir, by Mukhtar Mai, Oh! Editions, Paris, 2006
8. A brief Guide to Honour Based Violence by Palbinder Singh,
9. Gender Violence in India, The Prajnya Trust, 2009/Forced Marriage/Honour Killing

10. A Website on Honour Based Violence: 

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