"There is nothing honourable in honour killings and they are nothing but
barbaric and brutal murders by bigoted persons with feudal minds
," - Justice Markandey Katju
The Perceived Honour
Honour is referred to as the perceived pride and status of the community which
can be religion-based, caste-based or sub-caste-based.
Caste Based Honour:
The upper caste, being upper, always wishes to dominate the
lower classes and enjoys the superior status. This honour gets challenged if any
relationship gets formed between the two classes.
Religion Based Honour:
Religious differences among people pave the way to
several forms of violence such as riots, hate crimes and also killing their
children who wish to marry in among different religions.
Gotra Based Honour:
Gotra refers to the lineage of a person. It is believed in
India that people of the same gotra having the same lineage, are brothers and
sisters. This is why, when a girl and a boy plan to get married and are found
out to be of the same gotra, they are strongly opposed by the community.
What Is Honour Killing
Honour Killing is the term given to the killing of men or women in the name of
honour. The word 'honour killing' was introduced by a Dutch scholar Ane Nauta,
in 1978, to distinguish such killings from other killings in the family and
society. It includes crimes such as homicide, murder and assault. In such
crimes, the perpetrator is within the family or a group belonging to a
particular clan/lineage in a community.
Such crimes are commenced to instil a
sense of fear within the people of the society and to ensure they adhere to the
patriarchal norms. The victims of honour killing are mostly females and the
perpetrators are mostly males. The sanctions for such acts of violence against
the females of the community are given since the females are believed to bring dishonour to
The primary reason behind all crimes committed under the umbrella of honour is
the conventional, narrow-minded and rigid thought process of several
communities. It had all started from the core patriarchal systems in societies –
men formulated the traditional practices and men took it upon themselves to
ensure that future generations adhere to their traditions. It can be seen that
the intolerance of the Indian upper caste to the inter-caste
matrimonial/pre-marital partnership of women is the main cause of honour
But presently, it is witnessed that a significant number of women support their
husbands/fathers or respective elders in sanctioning the killings of those disobeying
the traditional norms or disturbing
the morality of the
can be caused by a range of reasons:
dressing sense to engaging in sexual acts with the same gender. Factors such as,
challenging the rigidity of the elders; scenarios such as wearing western
clothes, mocking/insulting the culture of the community, smoking/drinking,
getting along with males of different communities or villages, are all acts that
challenge the rigidity of highly conventional and orthodox elders.
all such acts as shameful and a disgrace to the community – the result of which
is an intense punishment to the one bringing such shame. It triggers the
sentiments of the community to the extent of putting the life of the disturbing
person in danger.
Causes Behind Honour Killing
Reasons for the term brought dishonour
can be multiple such as:
Refusing for an arranged marriage:
in India, many communities believe in
‘arranging’ the marriage for their children. Especially in the case of females,
all the elders of the family prefer and are usually strict regarding selecting
the girl’s husband. Hence the family does not accept and tolerate the girl
rejecting such marriage proposals.
Being a victim of sexual assault or even rape – any female who becomes a victim
of such heinous offences is considered to bring shame to the family and is
therefore sanctioned to be killed to get rid of the societal shame.
even from an abusive/torturous husband – a woman is considered to be
of service to her husband in such communities because of the patriarchal setup
and hence she cannot seek or even mention the idea of ending her marriage.
A woman, who is not even allowed to question the legitimacy of her
marriage is never pardoned for engaging in any form of adultery.
The woman is never allowed to raise her voice, question or challenge the values
and beliefs of the society and is only expected to follow them. In cases where
she refuses to follow the tradition, she is hated, abused and eventually killed.
are sanctioned by elders to protect the honour of the community
as the woman is considered to bring dishonour. The women are victimized by their
own family which leads to psychological trauma since it’s not some friend or
acquaintance but her family members.
Why is any other form of punishment not considered, instead of killing?Members of khap panchayats, elders of the community or family members of the
deceased; resort to sanction the killing of the individual to:
- set an example in the society
- deter those inspired from committing any shameful acts
- ensure the purity of the community
- prevent the formation of any impure legacy
- maintain the high status/honour in society
Origin Of Honour Crimes
Honour killings are not a new phenomenon. The origins of Honour Killing can be
traced back to millennia. In historical records, we find such cases occurring in
1200 BC in the Hammurabi tribes and 6000 BC in the Assyrian tribes. In ancient
times, women's chastity was considered as the honour of the community.
In India, from a historical time, the varna system has contributed to the
development of distinct groups. Class division and standards have always been
dominated by men. This has led to men still leading, instructing and influencing
women and children in their respective families.
Casteism is entrenched in Indian communities and is a major cause of honour
killing. Marriage in a lower caste is strictly prohibited for two main reasons;
first, status – caste reflects the status of the family in society, and status
would decline if there were some kind of association with a lower caste. Second,
the lineage – union between the lower and upper castes will break the family
lineage. No member of the upper caste wants a future generation who does not
belong to the same family and ultimately devalues the legacy.
Trend Of Honour Killing In India
Honour killings are primarily found in highly patriarchal cultures. Most honour-based crimes
are heinous in nature to create fear in the community regarding the consequences
of tarnishing the community’s honour.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau’s crime report of 2018 and 2019,
there were 53 murders with motive recorded as honour killing and most of which
are reported as a suicide. The 2019 Crime Statistics Report by NCRB records
honour killings in the following states: Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttarakhand,
Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh.1
There have been several cases that have led to legal advances resulting in a
changed legal perspective towards honour-based crime.
In the classic case of Manoj and Babli from the hinterlands of Haryana, the two
were brutally murdered by Babli’s family in Jun’07. It was ordered by the khap
panchayat since they were marrying in the same gotra
. In Mar’10, a Karnal
district court judge stated that:
This court has gone through sleepless nights
and tried to put itself in the shoes of the offender. The Khap panchayat has
functioned contrary to the constitution, ridiculed it and have become a law unto
This particular case highlighted the sphere of honour killings in
India and the dominance of khap panchayats in personal matters, especially those
relating to the conduct of women in society.
Lata Singh vs State of Uttar Pradesh:
Lata Singh got married to Bramha Nand
Gupta of her own free will in 2000. Being an inter-caste marriage, the husband
and his family were murdered. The justice Markandey Katju in this case defined honour-based killing
Honour killings are nothing but barbaric cold-blooded murder and no honour
is involved in such killings".3
The supreme court went to the extent to state
that inter-religion/caste marriages should be encouraged to strengthen the
social fabric of society. This case recognized the brutality of honour-based crimes
in India and acknowledged that there is no honour in an honour killing.
It emphasized the constitutional right of every individual - the right to life
and personal liberty guaranteed under article 21 and through this the court even
specified the doctrine of due process of law.
In Shakti Vahini vs Union of India
, CJI Dipak Misra said:
the assertion of
choice is an inseparable facet of liberty and dignity.4 The apex court on 27th
March 2018 gave a landmark ruling in a writ petition filed by NGO Shakti Vahini,
the court pronounced that any attempt by khap panchayat or any other assembly to
scuttle or prevent two consenting adults from marrying is illegal
judges bench also held that the criminal cases on honour killing shall be tried
before the designated fast track court. The trial must be concluded within 6
months from the date of cognizance of the offence. This was the very first case
in which the court acknowledged the role of khap panchayat and ordered
to restrict it.
Despite such a judgment, the social outlook for honour violations still
prevails, the pride of caste and religion is so high in the society that it
overrides judicial verdicts and every other form of social reform. The shift is
being seen as an intrusion in the structure of personal norms, values and the
ideology of such communities.
There has been a steady increase in honour-based crimes. Recently in 2018 after
Shakti Vahini case
judgement, in May 2018, Keven Joseph, a Dalit
Christian married Neeru Chacko despite strong resentment from her family. Neeru
belonged to the Hindu upper-caste community, the family challenged their
marriage and abducted Kevin on 26th May 2018. Kevin's body was found near a
river dam in Kollam district, Hyderabad on 28th May morning. A special fast
track court set up at Kottayam session court held 10 accused guilty in an honour
In the State of Maharashtra vs Ekanth Kumbharkar
The father Eknath Kumbharkar
murdered his pregnant daughter Pramila because she had an inter-caste love
marriage with Deepak. Father never accepted the marriage and had a grudge in his
mind against his daughter. As he believed that she had brought dishonour and
shame to his social reputation by marrying a different caste man. The accused
was awarded life imprisonment under section 364 of IPC. This shows that the
phenomenon of honour is deeply entrenched in the minds of people, the illusion
of purity is used as an excuse to eradicate the sense of shame that they feel
due to the acts of their family members especially females.
Several lawyers, social workers and politicians have highly recommended amending
honour killing as a separate crime. The Constitution of India guarantees every
person certain fundamental right such as Article 14,15,17,19 and 21 and honour-related
killings are a violation of these rights.
Honour killings are hideously contrary
to this very fundamental right, they are predominantly targeted at women and
thus give rise to gender inequality and discrimination. Khap panchayats violate
the individual fundamental right to life, as they kill or provoke murder, in the
name of dignity. Every individual has the right to live. The death penalty is
possible only if it is provided by statute.
Honour killing cases in current substantive legal provision come under the
offence affecting the human body of IPC, 1860.
Presently perpetrators are
- Section 299 - Penalizes Culpable homicide
- Section 300 &302 - Penalizes Murder and punishment to murder
- Section 307 - Penalizes Attempt to murder
- Section 364 - Penalizes Kidnapping and abducting to murder
The Justice P.V Reddy commission in 2010 proposed the bill under the title
of "Prohibition of interference with the freedom of matrimonial alliance to
curb the social evil of the caste councils/khap panchayats interference with
life and liberty of persons wanting to marry partners belonging to same gotra or
different caste/ religion. It proposed to check the gathering of such
panchayats to condemn the marriages and further take action of harassing and
harming them. The bill was laid down to punish any citizen who takes part in an
unlawful assembly to socially boycott or cause bodily harm to a man or woman who
is married or wants to marry. Unfortunately, the bill was never passed in the
In Lata Singh v/s State of UP
, the Supreme Court held tha:
There is no honour
in honour killing. The feudal minds committing and justifying such gruesome
acts are directly violating the human rights of the females of their
family/community. The right to live is a fundamental right of any citizen and a
female befriending any male of a different caste or status should not be
controlled to the extent of limiting her life.
The barbaric murders and gruesome killings are a result of rigid conventional
thoughts and practices which can be controlled through an amalgamation of
different concepts such as stricter punishments to instil a fear of crime, moral
education to uplift the social status of such communities, and the most
important, females need to be educated about their rights. Uplifting the society
cannot be achieved in isolation and ignoring the females can certainly not
assist with any form of prosperity.
Eradication of honour killings requires
substantial interference in the status quo. Gender equity has not yet been
reached and abuse persists in the name of honour. It is also the responsibility
of the state and community to protect the human rights of its people and prevent
honour killings. Such social evils cannot be prevented by legislation alone;
rather, almost all social, fiscal, political and cultural components would have
to be sensitized against this crime. There is no denying that the law could only
be one of the most essential instruments for fighting these barbaric crimes.
Award Winning Article Is Written By:
- National crime records bureau crime in India
- Manoj and Babli Case https://indiankanoon.org/doc/60381696/
- Lata Singh vs State of Uttar Pradesh https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1364215/
- Shakti Vahini vs Union of India https://indiankanoon.org/doc/92846055/
- Kritika Deora (MA Criminology, School of Behavioral
Science, National Forensic Sciences University, MHA) and
- Parth Sharma (MA Criminology, School of Behavioral
Science, National Forensic Sciences University, MHA)
- Ms.Krupa Nishar (Assistant Professor, School of Behavioral Science,
National Forensic Sciences University, MHA)
Authentication No: AP33664816025-14-0421