Ending Honour Killings in India: Preventive, Protective, and Redress Measures
The escalating instances of honour-based crimes call for a robust legal framework to combat this heinous practice. These crimes stem from moral norms based on gender, religion, sexuality, or caste, and despite their widespread prevalence, India lacks dedicated legislation to address them.
The "Network to Combat Crimes Committed in the Name of Honour," also known as "The Network," is championing the cause for a specialized law to counter honour-based crimes.
' Network' was conceived in 2022. It is a collective of civil society organisations, lawyers, grassroots activists, and individuals from across India engaged in researching crimes in the name of honour and enabling survivors to seek justice. Since its inception, the Network has organised several national, state and regional consultations with the stakeholders to frame a draft Bill titled, ‘The Freedom of Marriage and Association and Prohibition of Crimes in the Name of ‘Honour’ Bill, 2022’.
Honor killing, a deplorable act
Honour killing, a deplorable act of taking someone's life, usually perpetrated by a member of their own family or community, is carried out to safeguard what is deemed as "honour." At present, honour-based crimes, such as honour killings, coercion, instigation to suicide, physical and mental harm, and others, are subsumed under the existing provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including Section 300 for murder and/or the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Lack of data on honor-based crimes
The absence of accurate data and comprehensive records concerning honour-based crimes is a major obstacle to effectively addressing this egregious practice in India. The National Crime Records Bureau's report for 2020 indicates that a mere 25 cases of honour killing were reported in the previous year. However, this official figure contradicts the higher number of such incidents documented by the media and human rights organizations. The lack of reliable summary data and systematic documentation regarding honour-based crimes impedes efforts to understand the extent of this social evil and devise targeted interventions. It also underscores the need for a concerted effort to improve the collection and analysis of data on these crimes. Accurate and comprehensive data can assist in devising evidence-based policies and programs to combat this scourge effectively.
- The urgent need for a separate legal framework to tackle honour-based crimes was highlighted by the Law Commission of India in 2012. The commission recommended the enactment of a dedicated Act, specifically aimed at curbing such crimes. In line with this recommendation, a bill called ‘The Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances Bill’ was drafted, which outlined punishments and definitions specific to honour crimes. This included making the intimidation of a couple a criminal offense.
- The National Commission for Women also presented a draft Bill to Parliament, based on the Law Commission's report, to combat honour killings. This draft Bill aimed to provide comprehensive measures to address the problem of honour-based crimes in India.
- The Supreme Court of India also recognised the pernicious nature of honour killing in 2018, in the case of Shakti Vahini vs. Union of India. The court emphasised the need for preventive, remedial, and punitive measures to be taken by the police administration to curb the menace of honour-based crimes. The court held that the police must be held accountable and responsible for preventing such crimes and punishing the offenders.
Recommendations by the Network
(i) Preventive Measures
Gender sensitisation must become a norm in all government policies and programmes. The government must also be dedicated to fighting against caste-based discrimination and violence. Educational interventions and awareness programmes will also help curb honour-based crimes and killings.
(ii) Protective and Rehabilitative Measures
Reliable ‘Safe Houses’ are a need of the hour and any person, couple, or family who feels threatened should be provided safe lodging with access to legal aid and police support.
(iii) Redress Mechanisms
A dedicated legislation against honour-based crimes and honour killings is an immediate need. Any related law, like the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (including the 2015 amendments), can be read together with new legislation to be more holistic and effective. Access to timely legal aid is vital. Victim protection must be made a priority. All ancillary services like mental health and trauma counselling must also be available to the victims on request.
Moreover, the process of registering marriages under the Special Marriage Act needs to be made more sensitized by removing the 30-day notice period for objections against the marriage, which can conveniently turn violent. Statistics of honour-based crimes must be recorded exclusively under the respective rubric.
Support the Janwadi journalism of The Mooknayak, which prominently raises the issues and problems of the exploited/deprived, Dalit, tribal, women and minorities. The Mooknayak is run by your support. Click here for Support.