Much as the name refers—murder to save one’s honour. Murder of one who is trusted the most, loved the most, and very strangely murder by one’s own relatives for whom their honour is more beloved than their own beloved ones. Hundreds, if not thousands, of women are murdered by their families each year in the name of family “honour.” It’s difficult to get precise numbers on the phenomenon of honour killing, the murders frequently go unreported, the perpetrators unpunished, and the concept of family honour justifies the act in the eyes of some communities.

Honour killings are frequent, mainly in the Indian State of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Bihar. Among Rajputs, marriages with other caste male/female instigate killings of the married couple and family. This is unique form of honour killing related to the militant culture of ethnic Rajputs, who, despite the forces of modernization and the pressures of decolonization, subscribe to medieval views concerning the ‘preservation’ of perceived ‘purity’ of their lineage.

It is a false notion that honour killings only involve the killing of women. Men are equally victims of this practice, especially when it affects the reputation of a particular caste and community. Many grooms have been killed by the father or the brother of the bride. There is also a misconception about honour killing, that this practice is limited to the rural areas only. The truth is that it has spread over throughout the country whether rural or urban, though one has to admit that majority of these killings take place in the rural areas.

Women and girls are generally the victims of the honour- killing. The perceived dishonour is normally the result of one of the following occurrences or the suspicion of such occurrences

  1. Dressing in a manner (Westernized dressing) is not acceptable to the family or community.
  2. Desiring to marry by own choice especially to a fellow of other caste or other religion.
  3. Engaging in heterosexual acts or extramarital or premarital sexual acts.
  4. Engaging in homosexual acts.
  5. Marrying to a fellow of same gotra.

If we go into the recent history we shall find that ‘Honour Killings’ were first witnessed in its most gruesome form during the partition of the country in between the years 1947 and 1950. A large number of women and girls were forcefully killed so that so called family honour could be saved. During the partition, there were a lot of forced marriages, causing women from India to marry men from Pakistan and vice-versa. And then there was a search to hunt down these women who were forced to marry a person from another country or religion. When these women returned ‘home’ they were killed so that the family honour could be preserved and they were not declared social outcastes from their region.

It should be kept in mind that honour killing is not specific to India only. This is a practice that continues to be prevailing in other parts of the world too. Reports submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights show that honour killings have occurred in countries like Bangladesh, Great Britain, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda. In countries not submitting reports to the UN, the practice was condoned under the rule of the fundamentalist. Taliban Government in Afghanistan, and has been reported in Iraq and Iran. But, while honour killings have elicited considerable attention and outrage, human rights activists argue that they should be regarded as part of a much larger problem of violence against women.

It is shameful for any country and for the humanity to a great extent. How can anybody kill a person in the name of his so called honour? Liberty of life, liberty of even thinking freely has been choked. None has got the right to kill another person in the name of anything, any honour or any other act, for all these there is a government body. We can find these arguments very justified and logical but the solution is not that much easy.

If we look into the sequences of the happenings of these killings, we shall find that in the name of preserving and saving the honour of their community, caste or family, these people justify all their heinous acts. And they are supported and backed by a number of political leaders, civil servants, police officers, lawyers and even judges and, in such circumstances, the role of state is just of a mute spectator to these henious crimes. How pathetic and shameful it is!

The need of the hour is to check such incidences with full force and at any cost. The problem must be tackled at several fronts. The government should make very sincere efforts to educate the people and formulating the policies thereby strengthening the governance of rule of law. The police should pull out all the stops to find the assailants and punish them. The media should also lend a hand in creating local awareness about the horror of honour crimes. There is an urgent need to change the mental set up of the people and make them educated about the result of such crimes on the life of their own and the life of their children. We need to have stricter laws to tackle such killings as this is a crime which cannot be pardoned. Humans do not have the right to write down death sentences of innocent fellow human being.