Honour Killing: An Evil that Refuses to Leave

Honour killing or shame killing is the murder of a family member because the offenders believe that the victim has brought dishonour or shame to the family, or has violated the principles set by a community or a religion. Honour killing as a few typical reasons, such as, refusal of arrange marriages or forced marriages.

Honour killing is a type of domestic violence practised within the family. Some countries have put strict laws against the practice. However, justice systems of certain countries by the lack of enforcement of existing laws or by explicit provisions don’t exercise the laws against the killings committees in the name of family honour.

Though both men and women are the victims of honour killings. In certain cultures, there are different standards of code of honour for men and women. For women, stricter standards of virtue are included and duty of men to commit violent acts if demanded by honour. Family honour is an abstract concept involving the quality of being worthy that is perceived and respectability that affects the social standing. The ideology of family honour is different in different countries.

Causes for Honour Killings

In a male dominant society, the activities of women and girls are closely monitored. Women’s virginity is considered to be a kind of “sexual purity”, and its maintenance is considered to be the responsibility of male members in her life; her father, her brother, and finally her husband. Victims that are subjected to honour killing are believed to have been involved in actions that are considered to be “sexually immoral”. These activities include, openly conversing with men they are not related to, having sex before marriage or sex outside marriage- even if that includes rape or sexual harassment. Engaging in homo-sexual relations is still considered to be a taboo in larger parts of the country, which is another reason given to justify this social evil. In some cases, the perceived dishonour is believed to be the result of the female dressing up in a certain way unacceptable by the family or community.

In certain cases, a man and woman decide to run away from their family because they are in love with each other and their families do not support their marriage as it is inter-caste or inter-religion. In rural areas of India, honour killing due to inter-caste or inter-religious marriages continues to take place. These cases remain legally unreported to the police due to the direct or indirect support from the villagers. Such murders are often ruled as accidents or suicide by the victim when reported.

Sociologists believe that the reason why honour killings continue to take place is because of the continued rigidity of the caste system. Hence, the fear of losing their caste status through which they gain many benefits makes them commit this heinous crime. The root cause for the increase in the number of honour killings is because the formal governance has not been able to reach the rural areas and as a result, this crime continues to take place, though it should have been removed by now.

Misconceptions about Honour Killings

The major misconceptions related to honour killings is that this is a practice that is limited to the rural areas. The truth is that it is spread over such a large geographical area that we cannot isolate honour killings to rural areas, though one has to admit that majority of the killings take place in rural areas. But it can be seen recently that even the metropolitan cities like Delhi and Tamil Nadu are also not safe from this crime.

Another misconception regarding this evil practice is that it has religious roots. Even if a woman commits adultery, there have to four male witnesses with good behaviour and reputation to validate the charge. Furthermore, only the State can carry out judicial punishments, but never an individual vigilante. So, one can clearly see that there is no religious backing or religious roots of this heinous crime.

How to prevent Honour Killings

Firstly, the mentality of the people has to change. It means that the parents should accept their children’s wishes regarding marriage as it is they who have to lead a life with their life partners and if they are not satisfied with their life partner then, they would have to live a horrible married life, which sometimes, ends in suicide.

Secondly, we need to have stricter laws to tackle these kinds of killings as this is crime which can not be pardoned because, humans do not have the right to write down death sentences of innocent fellow humans.