Honor killing has been prevalent in India, especially in the North, for a long time. The term "Honor Killing or Honour Killing " refers to the homicide of a family member by other family members who believe that the victim violated community norms and has brought shame to the family. Due to this crime, many youths in India have been killed to date. It is because so-called honour killings are based on the belief that women are objects and commodities, not human beings endowed with dignity and rights.
The topic is coming to light more and more due to complicated sociocultural issues wherein high caste members do not accept inter-caste marriage to preserve their caste. If something were to happen to lower their status, they would feel that it was unnecessary, so if a female or male marries a person of lower status, they would feel that person was redundant rather than allowing their status to fall. Basically, the victim's parents will not agree to love marriage, even if their position and gotra are the same.
"Read this article to know the meaning of honor killing, punishments prescribed by our criminal law, provisions under the Indian Constitution and landmark cases."
Honour killing meaning
Honour killing or killing for honor is a heinous crime. In patriarchal societies, girls or women are constantly inspected as they are considered weak compared to males. Maintaining a woman’s virginity and “sexual purity” are considered the responsibility of male relatives, first her father and brothers and then her husband. Victims of honor killings generally are alleged to have engaged in “sexually immoral” actions by causing damage to their family name. It is also observed that such a crime often goes underreported.
What is the punishment for honour killing under IPC?
Sections 299–304: Punish any person guilty of murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The penalty for Murder is life imprisonment or death, and a fine. The punishment for non-murder culpable homicide is life imprisonment or imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine.
Section 307: Punishes threaten to kill for up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine. If a person gets injured, the punishment can extend to life in prison.
Section 308: Punishes attempt to commit culpable homicide by imprisonment for up to 3 years, with a fine, or with both. If it causes injury, the person shall be imprisoned or fined for up to 7 years, or both.
Section 120A and 120B: Punish whoever participates in a criminal conspiracy.
Sections 107–116: Punish people for abetting murders, including murder and culpable homicide.
Section 34 and 35: Punishes several-person criminal acts in support of common intention.
To know more about these provisions, don't miss to visit our course page on IPC.
Honor Killing and Indian Constitution
Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution refer to equality before the law, which indicates that all Indian citizens would be treated equally before the law without regard to their caste, creed, sex, race, or religion.
In cases of honor killing, the act is committed more often against a female member of the family than a male, demonstrating that there is no equality before the law. The murder of a woman constitutes a gender violation.
The Indian Constitution's Articles 19 and 21 discuss the rights to freedom and life, respectively. Both a person's rights are infringed in an honor killing. A person has the right to select their life partner. No one can take away anyone’s right to freedom and life.
Honor killing cases in India
1. Smt. Chandrapati vs state of Haryana and Ors. (2011)
This was the first landmark case where the victims, Manoj and Babli, loved each other, eloped, and married each other. Since they belonged to different castes, they were criticized by their family members along with other villagers. When presented in front of the panchayat, the decision was first made that whoever would be in contact with that couple would have to pay Rs. 25000. The panchayat then abducted and killed the couple in honor of the family members. The court held those five perpetrators guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
2. Shakti Vahini vs Union of India (2018)
In this case, certain guidelines were issued by the court to curb the practice of honor killing in India:
“That two consenting adults do not require the consent of anyone to get married.
Any action taken by the Khap panchayat or the family members to restrain the two consenting adults from getting married is illegal.
‘Class honor’, however, perceived, cannot smother an individual's choice, which he/she is entitled to enjoy under our compassionate Constitution.
Any honor-based crime with an intention to suppress a person’s choice to love marriage is illegal. Doing so would be violative of his dignity, which is against the provisions of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
When two adults get married out of their own will, they choose their relationship; they have been given this right under the Constitution. So, any infringement of the said right is a violation of the Constitution.”
3. Kartar Singh vs the state of Punjab- the court held that “Honor killing hinders an individual’s liberty, freedom of choice, and one’s own perception of choice.”
4. State of Maharashtra vs Eknath Kisan Kumbharkar (2019)
Further, it was said that honor killings had become widespread throughout the nation, especially in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Young couples in love frequently have to seek safety at police stations or protective houses to escape the wrath of kangaroo courts. It was stated that “We have held in Lata Singh case that there is nothing "honorable" in honor killings, and they are nothing but barbaric and brutal murders by bigoted persons with feudal minds. In our opinion honor killings, for whatever reason, come within the category of the rarest of rare cases deserving death punishment. It is time to stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices, which are a slur on our nation. This is necessary as a deterrent for such outrageous, uncivilized behavior. All persons planning to perpetrate "honor" killings should know that the gallows await them".
Honor killing as a global phenomenon
According to Amnesty International, Honor killings are most extensive in Pakistan. As stated by I.A. Rehman, the secretary-general of HCRP, “An honor killing is carried out because the honor of men in the family is perceived to have been injured”. “This is basically the consequence of the low status of women in the society”.
In Turkey, a young woman’s throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad had been dedicated to her over the radio. According to the reports, in Istanbul alone, one honor killing is made every week, and over 1000’s people have been killed.
Article 548 of Syria’s Penal code states that – “if a man catches his wife or sister committing adultery or illegitimate sexual acts with another and if he kills or injures one or both of them, he should benefit from a reduced penalty which should not be less than two years in prison
In Morocco, Article 418 of its Penal Code grants “extenuating circumstances” to a husband who murders or injures his wife for “flagrante delicto” which means the act of wrongdoing, especially sexual misconduct. As per the records, every year, 200 women are killed due to this.
As previously stated, honor killing occurs when one family member is murdered by others. Unfortunately, honor killing is widespread in rural India in a democracy where everyone has countless rights to express themselves. Because rural areas are clueless about the rights specifically designed for them, people need to be aware of their rights and the laws created to protect them. India and various other countries adopt this practice which should be completely banned.