OPINION: Murder in the Name of Honor

Many a times we come across the word “Honor Killing” but very few of us are actually aware of what the term really means.

Honor killing is said to be done when family members murder another family member who has brought “shame” and “disgrace” to the family name.

Hina Iliyas

Usually in India it takes place over an “inappropriate” relationship or because of inter-caste marriages (marriage outside caste or religion) or marriages in the same gotra (clan).

Honor killing is directed mostly against women and girls. Many a times women are killed in the name of family honor by the male members. The criterion of honor is mainly set up by these male members and hence, honor killing is basically a sign of patriarchal dominance.

Many of us think that such practices are limited to rural areas only where the caste system still exists and is above all where modern ideas have not taken root. But, various cases of honor killing has been reported even in the metropolitan areas like Delhi and other major cities which shows that the practice of honor killing is spread over a large area. Therefore, we can’t isolate honor killing to rural areas only.

Honor killings have mainly been reported in northern regions of India, particularly in the states of Rajasthan, U.P., Uttarakhand, Haryana and Punjab. These cases are rare in southern Indian states, and states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Haryana is one of the worst hit as far as honor killing is concerned. Haryana is highly influenced by the Khap panchayat.

Khap is a cluster of villages united by caste and geography. Love marriages are considered to be taboo in areas governed by the Khap. Those living in a Khap are not allowed to marry in the same gotra or even in any gotra from the same village. The main belief is that all boys and girls within a khap are  siblings. The entire burden of siblinghood rests on the girl. She is the keeper of village honor.

If you are an eligible bachelor living in a Haryana village, landing a suitable bride could be a nightmarish experience. As traditions go, you could not marry another woman from the same village because sometime, somewhere in history, her ancestors and yours, may have been siblings. You cannot hunt for brides in villages that border yours or even distant ones where other clans living in your village have good relations. If you go against these social norms, then you will be severely punished (burned alive or beaten to death).

In one such case, the Karnal district court ordered the execution of five perpetrators of an honor killing in Kaithal and imprisoning for life. The Khap chief who ordered the killing of Manoj Banwala and Babli, a man and woman of the same clan who eloped and married in June, 2007. Despite having been given police protection on court orders, they were kidnapped and their dead bodies were found a week later in an irrigation canal. Their crime, according to the tribal council that ordered the killing, was to have married within the same Hindu clan, or gotra, which for many north Indians is tantamount to incest.

Recent cases show the violence inflicted by the caste panchayats, which range from the death penalty to compelling divorce, humiliating couples in public, cutting off their hair and beating them with shoes. In other cases, the entire families and even communities as a whole have been boycotted or expelled. It is due to the inherent weakness of democratically elected Panchayati Raj institutions, that Khap panchayats have been powerful. Even the government has not done much to control their power

So far, there is no specific law to deal with honor killings. This kind of murder comes under the general category of homicide. So to prevent and tackle such killings we need to have stricter laws. Recently the Indian Supreme Court has taken a harsh stand on honor killing, saying that “those convicted of such crimes should receive the death penalty.”

Secondly, parents should accept their children’s wishes regarding marriages because it is they (children) who have to lead a life with their life partners and that’s why their satisfaction is of utmost importance; else it will lead to a  miserable married life which might even end up in depression leading to suicide.

Society, and parents in particular, need to change their mentality with the changing time to keep pace with the new generation and to bring this mishap of honor killing to an end.

[Hina Iliyas is a graduate student in the faculty of law. She can be reached via email at: hinailiyas[at]gmail.com] 

About Hina Iliyas

Hina Iliyas is a graduate student in the faculty of law. She can be reached via email at: hinailiyas[at]gmail.com

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  1. this problem of honor killing is growing as a major problem in our society.
    this is due to the fact that 25 years ago, when our parents or their friends were married, there were no interaction between bridge and spouse…due to no phones and modes of comm. and some people with old mentality think that what happened to them should happen to their children too.. that why they want to force them into a relationship in which their child may not be interested and thus making them frustrated person…..

  2. well. root of the problem lies in the statement
    “history is taking care of history itself”

    woman who suffers never stand up for others….

  3. very gud keep it up….

  4. very well written and argued…

  5. very true…dis is one of the evil in the society…n cud exist for bit longer tym..if we dnt raise our voice against it

  6. Well done Hina..keep it up.

  7. The ideal sequence of events in any land is:

    A girl loves a boy.

    The boy loves the girl.

    So, the girl and the boy get married and live happily ever after.

    Whereas, the sequence of events in the land of “caste’s” based India is:

    A girl loves a boy.

    The boy loves the girl.

    So, they get married and if they are of the same “gotra” then the next day, their corpses are found hanging from the fan.

    The “lived happily ever after” doesn’t exist here.

    All the parents need to support their child’s happiness and accept that there are other things which make their child happy other than them. So, next time they touch your feet seeking your blessings for their “happily ever after”, say it from your heart-

    “Khush raho. Jeetey raho!!”

    Lets put an end to Honor Killing

  8. BTW Hina, – GUD WORK :)

  9. very well written..your thoughts are much more mature than you..gud work..appreciable..

  10. It’s a well-known fact that Islam maintains the protection of life and does not sanction any violation against it. In the Glorious Qur’an, Allah, Most High, says, “Whoso slayeth a believer of set purpose, his reward is Hell for ever. Allah is wroth against him and He hath cursed him and prepared for him an awful doom.” (An-Nisa’: 93)

    There is no such concept in Islam that is called “honor killing”. Islam holds every soul in high esteem and does not allow any transgression upon it. It does not allow people to take the law in their own hands and administer justice, because doing so will be leading to chaos and lawlessness. Therefore, based on this, Islam does not permit such killings.

    First of all, in order to sanction killing, it must be through a binding verdict issued by an authoritative law court. Individuals themselves have no authority either to judge cases or pass judgments. Therefore, a Muslim should not sanction such killing because doing so will be leading to the rule of the law of the jungle. A civilized society cannot be run by such laws.

    The so-called “honor killing” is based on ignorance and disregard of morals and laws, which cannot be abolished except by disciplinary punishments.

    In Islam, there is no place for unjustifiable killing. Even in case of capital punishment, only the government can apply the law through the judicial procedures. No one has the authority to execute the law other than the officers who are in charge.

    Honor killing could be a wrong cultural tradition. It is unjust and inhumane action. The murderer of that type deserves punishment.

    Saudis constitute 2% of the Muslim population of the world and what they do in many cases is outside the Islamic standards of main stream islam.
    Islam should never be judged by the tribal laws of Afghans or Saudis

  11. I am also against honor killing and condemn it in every form. But, let me analyse the problem little more. Let me pose some questions and try to answer them.
    1. How can parents get honor by killing their children?
    2. Can you remove the traditions related to caste system overnight?
    3. Can a law be effective in doing so?
    4. Who owes the responsibility to change the mindset of people?
    5. Does a parent not have the right to say that “please don’t marry a girl/boy from this clan, else go and choose a boy/girl of your choice.
    6. Finally, is the love for a girl/boy is more important than your love for parents. Don’t they have dreams for your marriage?

    1. People along with their family live in a social setting where they own house, do business and interact with society. They can’t live isolated because they satisfy their daily needs with the help from society. It is this society which compels a person to follow some norms, which are agreed by all, to live peacefully in society. They don’t get pleasure by killing their children. It is only that they are helpless and can’t go against society. And as they adhere to the norms of society they live with respect in society as the deviants have been punished and the equilibrium has been maintained.

    2,3,4. Caste system is deeply entrenched in the Indian society. It is very strong in mostly rural and few urban areas. It is fading away gradually in cities because with modern means of transportation and communication it is difficult to follow caste system. Also, people in cities get modern education which promotes equality. I don’t think a law will be effective to tackle this problem. Already we have laws for corruption but it is increasing day by day. It is the responsibility of media, educated people and politicians by creating awareness, bringing in modern means of transportation and communication in rural areas. But, it is unfortunate that our politicians use caste to garner their votes and thus maintains the caste system.

    5,6 Finally a very important question: what is love? Which love is more important your parents or your lover’s? Did you ever share this information with your parents so that they can warn you before matter worsens? Does it make sense to run away with your lover and bring disgrace to your family? why should parents make compromises all the time? Are you mature enough to understand their dilemma? Do you think they can leave the social setting which they have build up for ,say, last 40 years?
    Parents give birth to a child they socialize the child. They have dreams about their child and try to achieve what they didn’t through their child. They make compromises so that their child can grow happily. They have dreams for their child’s marriage. THINK what will happen to them if one day you come and say that I am gong to marry this girl/boy either you allow or not. Suddenly that girl/boy has become more important than caring parents.

    I know that arguments do exist on both sides but I think the initial fault lies with the loving couple. They should think before they act. Once they provoke the parents it is the society which comes into play and parents become helpless. Only bold parents can defy society and take bold decisions. As every couple is not bold enough to ask permission for their relationship from their parents, how can we expect every parent to be bold enough to defy society. After all we are all human beings.

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