An honor killing is the murder of a family or clan member by one or more fellow family members, where the murderers believe the victim to have brought dishonor upon the family and community. Honour is threatened when a woman engages in, or is suspected of engaging in, an immoral act.
This perceived dishonor is normally the result of utilizing dress codes unacceptable to the family ,wanting out of an arranged marriage or choosing to marry by own choice, engaging in certain sexual acts or engaging in relations with the opposite sex,being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband or committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonors” her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.
These killings result from the perception that defense of honor justifies killing a person whose behavior dishonors their clan or family. Family status is directly linked to family honour, and family honour is directly linked to the female’s perceived moral integrity.
To be young and in love has proved fatal for many young girls and boys in parts of north India as an intolerant and bigoted society refuses to accept any violation of its rigid code of decorum, especially when it comes to women.
It is only men who engage in honour killing. Whilst husbands, fathers and brothers are normally the perpetrators, female family members are often involved in the planning and set-up. In some cases, tribal councils, or ‘jirgas’ give the order for men to engage in specific honour killings. Sometimes a mother may support an honor killing of an “offending” female family member in order to preserve the honor of other female family members since many men in these societies will refuse to marry the sister of a “shamed” female whom the family has not chosen to punish, thereby “purifying” the family name by murdering the suspected female.
Honor killings come about because the women live in cultures where they and their sexuality are treated as family property. Women are considered the property of the males in their family irrespective of their class, ethnic, or religious group. The owner of the property has the right to decide its fate. The concept of ownership has turned women into a commodity which can be exchanged, bought and sold.
Honour killings is a global issue, with violence and killing in the name of honour being recorded in Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Britain, Brazil, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Guatemala, Holland, India, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Peru, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela and the West Bank. Despite this, the majority of honour killings occur in the Middle East, in Muslim settings. It is important to note that Islamic law and religion do not support the practice. The practice in fact has tribal roots which precede Islam and can be traced back to the Hammurabi and Assyrian tribes of 1200 B.C. It stems from a belief that women, like livestock and land, are the property of men, and that it is a man’s role to ensure a stable family structure. A woman’s virginal status is seen as both the property and responsibility of the man.
In India the largest number of cases was found to have occurred in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh – most of the incidents reported at the convention took place in these three States. One reason for the increased visibility of such crimes is the trend of more and more girls joining educational institutions, meeting others from different backgrounds and castes and establishing relationships beyond the confines of caste and community. Such individuals, both boys and girls, are being targeted so that none dares to breach the barriers of castes and communities. Significantly, in the majority of cases it is the economically and socially dominant castes that organize, instigate and abet such acts of retribution.
The two teenage girls who were shot dead last week by a cousin in Noida for daring to run away to meet their boyfriends are the latest victims of honour killings, a euphemism for doing away with anyone seen as spoiling the family’s reputation.
In yet another case of honour killings, a couple was shot dead in Punjab on the orders of the girl’s father for marrying against his wishes. It has been reported that the victims Prabhjot Kaur and Pradeep Singh from Ferozepur, both students of Class 12 were shot dead by five unidentified gunmen, when they arrived at a local school in Amritsar for their board examinations.
These are socially sanctioned by caste panchayats and carried out by mobs with the connivance of family members.
Killing in the name of honour is a major problem. The media always attach this with religion, in reality honour killing and religion is two different topics. If strong sentences are introduced for such killing than this inhumane practice can be eliminated from the society.
A court in northern India has sentenced to death five men for murdering a young couple who married in defiance of caste traditions. The five sentenced to hang on Tuesday over the so-called “honour killing” were relatives of the woman, named Babli, whose body was found alongside her husband Manoj’s mutilated corpse in June 2007, in Haryana state.
Such people who are involved in such practice should be named and shamed in order to reduce this practice
People in the grass root have to be made aware and educated, so that they can look beyond the barriers of caste, creed, language and other such divisions. The usual remedy to such murders is to suggest that society must be prevailed upon to be more gender-sensitive and shed prejudices of caste and class. Efforts should be made to sensitize people on the need to do away with social biases. But equally, it should be made clear that there is no escape for those who take justice into their own hands. When a mob has carried out such attacks, it becomes difficult to pinpoint a culprit. The collection of evidence becomes tricky and eyewitnesses are never forthcoming.