Honour crimes or honour killings are acts of violence, usually murder, mostly committed by male family members predominantly against female [relatives], who are perceived to have brought dishonour upon the family. A woman can be targeted by individuals within her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, marrying against the parent’s wishes, choosing lovers or spouses outside of their family's caste and religious community, having extramarital relationships, marrying within the same gotra, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband, Some women who adopt the customs (or religion) of an outside group, may also be more likely to be victims. Several cases have been suspected but not confirmed which includes choosing partners of same sex.
The acts of violence include public lynching of couples, murder of either the man or the woman concerned, murder made to appear as suicide, public beatings, humiliation, blackening of the face, forcing couples or their families to eat excreta or drink urine, forced incarceration, social boycotts and the levying of fines.
Central to the theme of honour and violence is the subordinate position of girls and women in all castes and communities. A woman's chastity is the "honour" of the community and she has no sovereign right over her body at any point of her life. The retribution is particularly swift and brutal if she crosses caste and class barriers to choose a lower-caste man as her partner. The most obvious reason for this practice to continue in India is its rigid caste system and the patriarchal mind set. People from the rural areas refuse to change their attitude to marriage. According to them, if any daughter dares to disobey her parents on the issue of marriage and decides to marry a man of her wishes but from another gotra or outside her caste, it would bring disrepute to the family honour and hence they decide to give the ultimate sentence, that is death, to the daughter, sometimes the son-in-law is also killed as well. 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 other reason why honour killings are taking place is because the mentality of people has not changed and they just cannot accept that marriages can take place in the same gotra or outside one’s caste. Another reason for the increased visibility of such crimes is the trend of more and more girls joining educational institutions, meeting others from different backgrounds and castes and establishing relationships beyond the confines of caste and community. Such individuals, both boys and girls, are being targeted so that none dares to breach the barriers of castes and communities. Significantly, in the majority of cases it is the economically and socially dominant castes that organize, instigate and abet such acts of retribution. Caste panchayats have come to play an increasingly important role in Haryana and elsewhere, especially in situations where political patronage also exists
This tradition was first viewed in its most horrible form during the Partition of the country in between the years 1947 and 1950 when many women were forcefully killed so that family honour could be preserved from the forced marriages during the partition. Women who were forced to marry a person from another country and another religion and when they returned ‘home’ they were killed so that the family honour could be preserved. So, the partition years can be seen to be the beginning of the tradition of honour killing on a large scale.
In India, the largest number of cases was reported in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. In Muzaffarnagar district in western Uttar Pradesh, at least 13 honour killings occurred within nine months in 2003. In 2002, while 10 such killings were reported, 35 couples were declared missing. It was estimated that Haryana and Punjab alone account for 10 per cent of all honour killings in the country. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data related to honour killings, 28 honour killing cases were reported in 2014, 192 in 2015 and 68 in the year 2016. Sixty-five cases of culpable homicide for the motive of honour killing have also been reported between 2015 and 2016. In fact, there is refusal even to recognise this phenomenon. Data for such incidents are seldom available and they would mostly be classified under the category of general crimes. Moreover, most of such cases go unreported and, even when reported, often first information reports are not filed and post-mortems are not conducted.
This practice is not limited the rural areas, but it has also been seen recently that even the metropolitan cities like Delhi and Tamil Nadu are not safe from this crime because 5 honour killings were reported from Delhi and in Tamil Nadu; a daughter and son in law were killed due to marriage into the same gotra. So it can be seen clearly that honour killing has a very wide geographical spread.
For the eradication of such a inhuman practice, a change in the mentality of the people and a strong law against such a inhuman act, both are essential. 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 will lead a horrible married life which might even end in suicide. Secondly, we need to have stricter laws to tackle these kinds of killings as this is a crime which cannot be pardoned because humans do not have the right to write down death sentences of innocent fellow humans. So far, there is no specific law to deal with honour killings. The murders come under the general categories of homicide or manslaughter. Sometimes the honour killings are also done by a mob and so when a mob has carried out such attacks, it becomes difficult to pinpoint a culprit. The collection of evidence becomes tricky and eyewitnesses are never forthcoming. But ‘Honour Killings’ are against International Law on Human Rights and against United Nation agendas. But still even though we don’t have any law to deal with it specifically in India but we have judicial precedence over it. There are also some bills which are in the latent stage against the honour killings, are planned to be introduced in the parliament sooner.