Kamayani Bali Mahabal aka Kractivist Pic courtesy — http://50watts.com/I-Am-a-Bird-of-the-Heavenly-Garden
The naked brutality of honour crimes against women is in contravention of the spirit of the ’United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)’ which has been duly signed and ratified by India. The prevalence and entrenchment of the caste system and rabid patriarchal ethos in the society at large are the root cause of this social evil. The Supreme Court of India, in its observation in the case of Lata Singh versus State of Uttar Pradesh and others in 2006, termed the caste system as a curse on the nation and acknowledged that inter-caste marriages are in the national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system. Referring to ’honour’ killings the Apex Court stated: “There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal minded persons who deserve harsh punishment.”
In June 2010 Supreme Court issued a notice to the Central Government and nine State governments to know about the steps taken to curb such violence. The Union Government constituted a group of nine Ministers to look into the possibility of framing a separate law to deal with the menace of ’honour’ killings under former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in 2010. But it eluded consensus till it was disbanded quietly with the exit of Mukherjee from the cabinet to become president.After criticism from women groups, the Prime Minister revived the group in 2012, But it is being suggested that ’honour’ killing is not the outcome of the gender bias attitude of the Khap Panchayats because in most cases the family members of the girl, including women, are the perpetrators of the crime. But the fact of the matter is that the ideology of the so-called family or clan honour is derived from the gender role assigned by patriarchy. The women who do not follow the socially acceptable behaviour or preserve their chastity have to bear the brunt in the form of violence, coercion and killings to restore the family ’honour’.
And it is an open secret that Khap Panchayats are the functional forums of patriarchy in the State and surrounding areas. There are numerous examples in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh where these medieval institutions have directly or indirectly precipitated situations leading to cold-blooded murders of young women and men defying the age-old established value system.
The debate on enactment of the law is also being trivialised on the ground that ’honour’ killing is, after all, a murder and the perpetrators of this crime can be tried under the existing provisions of the IPC. But it is not a case of simple murder.The resistance was more because of doubts that the objective could be best served by amending Section 300 of IPC to include participation in khap’s calls for “honour killings” as an additional criterion of what constitutes murder.
It is a social evil no less in enormity than sati, dowry deaths and atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It is difficult to quantify, but India is counted among the countries (Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran being others) having very high per capita incidents of ’honour’ killings in the world. We have the Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987; Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (amended in 1983 and 1986); and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 to deal with the social evils listed earlier. Then why not a stand-alone law to deal with ’honour’ killing which shames the civil society and silences forever the women and youth who dare to dream differently?
The Khap Panchayats and their supporters have raised dissenting voices against the enactment of a comprehensive law on ’honour’ killings. This is understandable as these extra-constitutional and mob-gathering forums have always considered themselves above the law of the land. The proposed Act for the abatement of ’honour killings’ has to be quite stringent whereby the perpetrators of the crime shall get life imprisonment and the institutions and individuals aiding and abetting such killings shall also get deterrent punishment.
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