An honor killing (American English), honour killing (Commonwealth English), or shame killing is the murder of an individual, either an outsider or a member of a family, by someone seeking to protect what they see as the dignity and honor of their family. Religion is often a motive, and those killed will often be more liberal than the murderer rather than genuinely “dishonorable”. Most often, it involves the murder of a woman or girl by male family members, due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought dishonor or shame upon the family name, reputation or prestige. Honour killings are believed to have originated from tribal customs. They are prevalent in various parts of the world, as well as in immigrant communities in countries which do not otherwise have societal norms that encourage honor killings. Honor killings are often associated with rural and tribal areas, but they occur in urban areas too.
Although condemned by international conventions and human rights organizations, honor killings are often justified and encouraged by various communities. In cases where the victim is an outsider, not killing this individual would, in some regions, cause family members to be accused of cowardice, a moral defect, and subsequently be morally stigmatized in their community. In cases when the victim is a family member, the killing evolves from the perpetrators’ perception that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the entire family, which could lead to social ostracization, by violating the moral norms of a community. Typical reasons include being in a relationship or having associations with social groups outside the family that may lead to social exclusion of a family (stigma-by-association). Examples are having premarital, extramarital or postmarital sex (in case of divorce or widow(er)ship), refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, seeking a divorce or separation, engaging in interfaith relations or relations with persons from a different caste, being the victim of a sexual crime, dressing in clothing, jewelry and accessories which are associated with sexual deviance, engaging in a relationship in spite of moral marriage impediments or bans, and engaging in non-heterosexual relations.
Though both men and women commit and are victims of honor killings, in many communities conformity to moral standards implies different behavior for men and women, including stricter standards for chastity for women. In many families, the honor motive is used by men as a pretext to restrict the rights of women.
Human Rights Watch defines “honor killings” as follows:
Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by her family for a variety of reasons including, refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has acted in a manner to bring “dishonor” to the family is sufficient to trigger an attack.
Men can also be the victims of honor killings by members of the family of a woman with whom they are perceived to have an inappropriate relationship, by raping a woman or a man, or by partaking in gay activities.
Many honor killings are planned by multiple members of a family, sometimes through a formal “family council”. The threat of murder is used as a means to control behavior, especially concerning sexuality and marriage, which may be seen as a duty for some or all family members to uphold. Family members may feel compelled to act to preserve the reputation of the family in the community and avoid stigma or shunning, particularly in tight-knit communities. Perpetrators often do not face negative stigma within their communities, because their behavior is seen as justified.
Reliable figures of honor killings are hard to obtain, in large part because “honor” is either improperly defined or is defined in ways other than in Article 12 of the UDHR (block-quoted above) without a clear follow-up explanation. As a result, criteria are hardly ever given for objectively determining whether a given case is an instance of honor killing. Because of the lack of both a clear definition of “honor” and coherent criteria, it is often presupposed that more women than men are victims of honor killings, and victim counts often contain women exclusively. Research in Pakistan and Turkey suggests that men and women each account for roughly 50% of victims.
Methods of killing include stoning, stabbing, beating, burning, beheading, hanging, throat slashing, lethal acid attacks, shooting, and strangulation. The killings are sometimes performed in public to warn the other individuals within the community of possible consequences of engaging in what is seen as illicit behavior.
Use of minors as perpetrators
Often, minor girls and boys are selected by the family to act as the killers, so that the killer may benefit from the most favorable legal outcome. Boys and sometimes women in the family are often asked to closely control and monitor the behavior of their sisters or other females in the family, to ensure that the females do not do anything to tarnish the ‘honor’ and ‘reputation’ of the family. The boys are often asked to carry out the murder, and if they refuse, they may face serious repercussions from the family and community for failing to perform their “duty”.
General cultural features
The cultural features which lead to honor killings are complex. Honor killings involve violence and fear as a tool for maintaining control. Honor killings are argued to have their origins among nomadic peoples and herdsmen: such populations carry all their valuables with them and risk having them stolen, and they do not have proper recourse to law. As a result, inspiring fear, using aggression, and cultivating a reputation for violent revenge to protect property is preferable to other behaviors. In societies where there is a weak rule of law, people must build fierce reputations.
In many cultures where honor is of a central value, men are sources, or active generators/agents of that honor, while the only effect that women can have on honor is to destroy it. Once the family’s or clan’s honor is considered to have been destroyed by a woman, there is a need for immediate revenge to restore it, for the family to avoid losing face in the community. As Amnesty International statement notes:
The regime of honor is unforgiving: women on whom suspicion has fallen are not allowed to defend themselves, and family members have no socially acceptable alternative but to remove the stain on their honor by attacking the woman.
The relation between social views on female sexuality and honor killings are complex. The way through which women in honor-based societies are considered to bring dishonor to men is often through their sexual behavior. Indeed, violence related to female sexual expression has been documented since Ancient Rome, when the pater familias had the right to kill an unmarried sexually active daughter or an adulterous wife. In medieval Europe, early Jewish law mandated stoning for an adulterous wife and her partner.
Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, an anthropology professor at Rhode Island College, writes that an act, or even alleged act, of any female sexual misconduct, upsets the moral order of the culture, and bloodshed is the only way to remove any shame brought by the actions and restore social equilibrium. However, the relation between honor and female sexuality is a complicated one, and some authors argue that it is not women’s sexuality per se that is the ‘problem’, but rather women’s self-determination in regard to it, as well as fertility. Sharif Kanaana, professor of anthropology at Birzeit University, says that honor killing is:
A complicated issue that cuts deep into the history of Islamic society. .. What the men of the family, clan, or tribe seek control of in a patrilineal society is reproductive power. Women for the tribe were considered a factory for making men. Honor killing is not a means to control sexual power or behavior. What’s behind it is the issue of fertility or reproductive power.
In some cultures, honor killings are considered less serious than other murders simply because they arise from long-standing cultural traditions and are thus deemed appropriate or justifiable. Additionally, according to a poll done by the BBC’s Asian network, 1 in 10 of the 500 young South Asians surveyed said they would condone any murder of someone who threatened their family’s honor.
Nighat Taufeeq of the women’s resource center Shirkatgah in Lahore, Pakistan says: “It is an unholy alliance that works against women: the killers take pride in what they have done, the tribal leaders condone the act and protect the killers and the police connive the cover-up.” The lawyer and human rights activist Hina Jilani says, “The right to life of women in Pakistan is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions.”
A July 2008 Turkish study by a team from Dicle University on honor killings in the Southeastern Anatolia Region, the predominantly Kurdish area of Turkey, has so far shown that little if any social stigma is attached to honor killing. It also comments that the practice is not related to a feudal societal structure, “there are also perpetrators who are well-educated university graduates. Of all those surveyed, 60 percent are either high school or university graduates or at the very least, literate.”
In contemporary times, the changing cultural and economic status of women has also been used to explain the occurrences of honor killings. Women in largely patriarchal cultures who have gained economic independence from their families go against their male-dominated culture. Some researchers argue that the shift towards greater responsibility for women and less for their fathers may cause their male family members to act in oppressive and sometimes violent manners to regain authority.
This change of culture can also be seen to affect Western cultures such as Britain among South Asian and Middle Eastern communities where honor killings often target women seeking greater independence and adopting seemingly Western values. For families who trace their ancestry back to the Middle East or South Asia, honor killings have targeted women for wearing clothes that are considered Western, having a boyfriend, or refusing to accept an arranged marriage
Fareena Alam, editor of a Muslim magazine, writes that honor killings which arise in Western cultures such as Britain are a tactic for immigrant families to cope with the alienating consequences of urbanization. Alam argues that immigrants remain close to the home culture and their relatives because it provides a safety net. She writes that
In villages “back home”, a man’s sphere of control was broader, with a large support system. In our cities full of strangers, there is virtually no control over who one’s family members sit, talk or work with.
Alam argues that it is thus the attempt to regain control and the feelings of alienation that ultimately leads to an honor killing.
Specific triggers of honor killings
Refusal of an arranged or forced marriage
Refusal of an arranged marriage or forced marriage is often a cause of an honor killing. The family that has prearranged the marriage risks disgrace if the marriage does not proceed and the betrothed is indulged in a relationship with another individual without prior knowledge of the family members.
Seeking a divorce
A woman attempting to obtain a divorce or separation without the consent of the husband/extended family can also be a trigger for honor killings. In cultures where marriages are arranged and goods are often exchanged between families, a woman’s desire to seek a divorce is often viewed as an insult to the men who negotiated the deal. By making their marital problems known outside the family, the women are seen as exposing the family to public dishonor.
Allegations and rumors about a family member
In certain cultures, an allegation against a woman can be enough to tarnish her family’s reputation, and to trigger an honor killing: the family’s fear of being ostracized by the community is enormous.
Victims of rape
In many cultures, victims of rape face severe violence, including honor killings, from their families and relatives. In many parts of the world, women who have been raped are considered to have brought ‘dishonor’ or ‘disgrace’ to their families. This is especially the case if the victim becomes pregnant.
Central to the code of honor, in many societies, is a woman’s virginity, which must be preserved until marriage. Suzanne Ruggi writes, “A woman’s virginity is the property of the men around her, first her father, later a gift for her husband; a virtual dowry as she graduates to marriage.”
There is evidence that homosexuality can also be perceived as grounds for honor killing by relatives. It is not only same-sex sexual acts that trigger violence—behaviors that are regarded as inappropriate gender expression (e.g. male acting or dressing in a “feminine way”) can also raise suspicion and lead to honor violence.
In one case, a gay Jordanian man was shot and wounded by his brother. In another case, in 2008, a homosexual Turkish-Kurdish student, Ahmet Yildiz, was shot outside a cafe and later died in the hospital. Sociologists have called this Turkey‘s first publicized gay honor killing. In 2012, a 17-year-old gay youth was murdered by his father in Turkey in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees states that “claims made by LGBT persons often reveal exposure to physical and sexual violence, extended periods of detention, medical abuse, the threat of execution and honor killing.”
Forbidden male partners
In many honor-based cultures, a woman maintains her honor through her modesty. If a man disrupts a woman’s modesty, through dating her, having sex with her (especially if her virginity was lost), the man has dishonored the woman, even if the relationship is consensual. Thus to restore the woman’s lost honor, the male members of her family will often beat and kill the offender. Sometimes, violence extends to the offender’s family members, since honor feud attacks are seen as family conflicts.
Interfaith and outside the caste relations
Some cultures have very strong caste social systems, based on social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a style of life which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy, customary social interaction, and exclusion based on cultural notions of purity and pollution. The caste system in India is such an example. In such cultures, it is often expected that one marries and forms closed associations only within one’s caste, and avoids lower castes. When these rules are violated, including relations with people of a different religion, this can result in violence, including honor killings.
Socializing outside the home
In some cultures, women are expected to have a primarily domestic role. Such ideas are often based on practices like purdah. Purdah is a religious and social practice of female seclusion prevalent among some Muslim and Hindu communities; it often requires having women stay indoors, the avoiding of socialization between men and women, and full body covering of women, including burqa. When these rules are violated, including by dressing in a way deemed inappropriate or displaying behavior seen as disobedient, the family may respond with violence up to honor killings.
There are multiple causes for which honor killings occur, and numerous factors interact with each other.
Views on women
Honor killings are often a result of strongly misogynistic views towards women and the position of women in society. In these traditionally male-dominated societies, women are dependent first on their father and then on their husbands, whom they are expected to obey. Women are viewed as property and not as individuals with their own agency. As such, they must submit to male authority figures in the family—failure to do so can result in extreme violence as punishment. Violence is seen as a way of ensuring compliance and preventing rebellion. According to Shahid Khan, a professor at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan: “Women are considered the property of the males in their family irrespective of their class, ethnic, or religious group. The owner of the property has the right to decide its fate. The concept of ownership has turned women into a commodity which can be exchanged, bought and sold”. In such cultures, women are not allowed to take control over their bodies and sexuality: these are the property of the males of the family, the father (and other male relatives) who must ensure virginity until marriage; and then the husband to whom his wife’s sexuality is subordinated—a woman must not undermine the ownership rights of her guardian by engaging in premarital sex or adultery.
Cultures of honor and shame
The concept of family honor is extremely important in many communities worldwide. The UN estimates that 5,000 women and girls are murdered each year in honor killings, which are widely reported in the Middle East and South Asia, but they occur in countries as varied as Brazil, Canada, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Egypt, Sweden, Syria, Uganda, United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries. In honor cultures, managing reputation is an important social ethic. Men are expected to act tough and be intolerant of disrespect and women are expected to be loyal to the family and be chaste. An insult to your personal or family honor must be met with a response, or the stain of dishonor can affect many others in the family and the wider community. Such acts often include female behaviors that are related to sex outside marriage or way of dressing, but may also include male homosexuality (like the emo killings in Iraq). The family may lose respect in the community and may be shunned by relatives. The only way they perceive that shame can be erased is through an honor killing. The cultures in which honor killings take place are usually considered “collectivist cultures“, where the family is more important than the individual, and individual autonomy is seen as a threat to the family and its honor.
Though it may seem in a modern context that honor killings are tied to certain religious traditions, the data does not support this claim. Research in Jordan found that teenagers who strongly endorsed honor killings in fact did not come from more religious households than teens who rejected it. The ideology of honor is a cultural phenomenon that does not appear to be related to religion, be it Middle Eastern or Western countries, and honor killings likely have a long history in human societies which predate many modern religions. In the US, a rural trend known as the “small-town effect” exhibit elevated incidents of argument-related homicides among white males, particularly in honor-oriented states in the South and the West, where everyone “knows your name and knows your shame.” This is similarly observed in rural areas in other parts of the world.
Honor cultures pervade in places of economic vulnerability and with the absence of the rule of law, where law enforcement cannot be counted on to protect them. People then resort to their reputations to protect them from social exploitation and a man must “stand up for himself” and not rely on others to do so. To lose your honor is to lose this protective barrier. Possessing honor in such a society can grant social status and economic and social opportunities. When honor is ruined, a person or family in an honor culture can be socially ostracized, face restricted economic opportunities, and have a difficult time finding a mate.
Laws and European colonialism
Legal frameworks can encourage honor killings. Such laws include on one side leniency towards such killings, and on the other side criminalization of various behaviors, such as extramarital sex, “indecent” dressing in public places, or homosexual sexual acts, with these laws acting as a way of reassuring perpetrators of honor killings that people engaging in these behaviors deserve punishment.
In the Roman Empire the Roman law Lex Julia de adulteriis coercendis implemented by Augustus Caesar permitted the murder of daughters and their lovers who committed adultery at the hands of their fathers and also permitted the murder of the adulterous wife’s lover at the hand of her husband.
The Napoleonic Code did not allow women to murder unfaithful husbands, while it permitted the murder of unfaithful women by their husbands. The Napoleonic Code Article 324 which was passed in 1810 permitted the murders of an unfaithful wife and her lover at the hand of her husband. It was abolished only in 1975. On 7 November 1975, Law no. 617/75 Article 17 repealed the 1810 French Penal Code Article 324. The 1810 penal code Article 324 passed by Napoleon was copied by Middle Eastern Arab countries. It inspired Jordan‘s Article 340 which permits the murder of a wife and her lover if caught in the act at the hands of her husband. France’s 1810 Penal Code Article 324 also inspired the 1858 Ottoman Penal Code’s Article 188, both the French Article 324 and Ottoman article 188 were drawn on to create Jordan’s Article 340 which was retained even after a 1944 revision of Jordan’s laws which did not touch public conduct and family law so Article 340 still applies to this day. France’s Mandate over Lebanon resulted in its penal code being imposed there in 1943–1944, with the French-inspired Lebanese law for adultery allowing the mere accusation of adultery against women resulting in a maximum punishment of two years in prison while men have to be caught in the act and not merely accused, and are punished with only one year in prison.
France’s Article 324 inspired laws in other Arab countries such as:
- Algeria’s 1991 Penal Code Article 279
- Egypt’s 1937 Penal Code no. 58 Article 237
- Iraq‘s 1966 Penal Code Article 409
- Jordan’s 1960 Penal Code no. 16 Article 340
- Kuwait’s Penal Code Article 153
- Lebanon’s Penal Code Articles 193, 252, 253 and 562
- These were amended in 1983, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1999 and were eventually repealed by the Lebanese Parliament on 4 August 2011
- Libya’s Penal Code Article 375
- Morocco’s 1963 amended Penal Code Article 418
- Oman’s Penal Code Article 252
- Palestine, which had two codes: Jordan’s 1960 Penal Code 1960 in the West Bank and British Mandate Criminal Code Article 18 in the Gaza Strip
- These were respectively repealed by Article 1 and Article 2 and both by Article 3 of the 2011 Law no. 71 which was signed on 5 May 2011 by president Mahmoud Abbas into the 10 October 2011 Official Gazette no. 91 applying in the Criminal Code of Palestine’s Northern Governorates and Southern Governorates
- Syria‘s 1953 amended 1949 Penal Code Article 548
- Tunisia’s 1991 Penal Code Article 207 (which was repealed)
- United Arab Emirate’s law no.3/1978 Article 334
- Yemen’s law no. 12/1994 Article 232
A similar situation is found in Pakistan‘s penal code, which was based on the 1860 code imported by Britain to rule colonial India, where a man who killed his wife for “grave and sudden provocation” was given a lenient sentencing. In 1990, Pakistan reformed this law to bring it in terms with the Shari’a, and the Pakistani Federal Shariat Court declared that “according to the teachings of Islam, provocation, no matter how grave and sudden it is, does not lessen the intensity of crime of murder”. However, judges still sometimes hand down lenient sentences for honor killings, justified by still citing the British law’s “grave and sudden provocation.”
Forced suicide as a substitute
A forced suicide may be a substitute for an honor killing. In this case, the family members do not directly kill the victim themselves, but force him or her to commit suicide, in order to avoid punishment. Such suicides are reported to be common in southeastern Turkey. It was reported that in 2001, 565 women lost their lives in honor-related crimes in Ilam, Iran, of which 375 were reportedly staged as self-immolation. In 2008, self-immolation “occurred in all the areas of Kurdish settlement (in Iran), where it was more common than in other parts of Iran”. It is claimed that in Iraqi Kurdistan many deaths are reported as “female suicides” in order to conceal honor-related crimes.
Restoring honor through a forced marriage
In the case of an unmarried woman or girl associating herself with a man, losing virginity, or being raped, the family may attempt to restore its ‘honor’ with a ‘shotgun wedding’. The groom will usually be the man who has ‘dishonored’ the woman or girl, but if this is not possible the family may try to arrange a marriage with another man, often a man who is part of the extended family of the one who has committed the acts with the woman or girl. This being an alternative to an honor killing, the woman or girl has no choice but to accept the marriage. The family of the man is expected to cooperate and provide a groom for the woman.
The Assembly notes that whilst so-called “honor crimes” emanate from cultural and not religious roots and are perpetrated worldwide (mainly in patriarchal societies or communities), the majority of reported cases in Europe have been among Muslim or migrant Muslim communities (although Islam itself does not support the death penalty for honor-related misconduct).
Many Muslim commentators and organizations condemn honor killings as an un-Islamic cultural practice. There is no mention of honor killing (extrajudicial killing by a woman’s family) in either the Qur’an or the Hadiths, and the practice violates Islamic law. Tahira Shaid Khan, a professor of women’s issues at Aga Khan University, blames such killings on attitudes (across different classes, ethnic, and religious groups) that view women as property with no rights of their own as the motivation for honor killings. Salafi scholar Muhammad Al-Munajjid asserts that the punishment of any crime is only reserved for the Islamic ruler. Ali Gomaa, Egypt‘s former Grand Mufti, has also spoken out forcefully against honor killings.
As a more generic statement reflecting the wider Islamic scholarly trend, Jonathan A. C. Brown says that “questions about honor killings have regularly found their way into the inboxes of muftis like Yusuf Qaradawi or the late Lebanese Shiite scholar Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah. Their responses reflect a rare consensus. No Muslim scholar of any note, either medieval or modern, has sanctioned a man killing his wife or sister for tarnishing her or the family’s honor. If a woman or man found together were to deserve the death penalty for fornication, this would have to be established by the evidence required by the Qur’an: either a confession or the testimony of four male witnesses, all upstanding in the eyes of the court, who actually saw penetration occur.”
Further, while honor killings are common in Muslim countries like Pakistan and the Arab nations, it is a practically unknown practice in other Muslim countries, such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and Senegal. This fact supports the idea that honor killings are to do with culture rather than religion.
The late Yemeni Muslim scholar Muḥammad al-Shawkānī wrote that one reason the Shari’a stipulates execution as a potential punishment for men who murder women is to counter honor killings for alleged slights of honor. He wrote, “There is no doubt that laxity on this matter is one of the greatest means leading to women’s lives being destroyed, especially in the Bedouin regions, which are characterized by harsh-hardheartedness and a strong sense of honor and shame stemming from Pre-Islamic times”.
Matthew A. Goldstein, J.D. (Arizona), has noted that honor killings were encouraged in ancient Rome, where male family members who did not take action against the female adulterers in their families were “actively persecuted”.
The origin of honor killings and the control of women is evidenced throughout history in the cultures and traditions of many regions. The Roman law of pater familias gave complete control to the men of the family over both their children and wives. Under these laws, the lives of children and wives were at the discretion of the men in their families. Ancient Roman Law also justified honor killings by stating that women who were found guilty of adultery could be killed by their husbands. During the Qing dynasty in China, fathers and husbands had the right to kill daughters who were deemed to have dishonored the family.
Among the Indigenous Aztecs and Incas, adultery was punishable by death. During John Calvin‘s rule of Geneva, women found guilty of adultery were punished by being drowned in the Rhône river.
Honor killings have a long tradition in Mediterranean Europe. According to the Honour Related Violence – European Resource Book and Good Practice (page 234): “Honor in the Mediterranean world is a code of conduct, a way of life and an ideal of the social order, which defines the lives, the customs and the values of many of the peoples in the Mediterranean moral”.
Honor killings have been reported in northern regions of India, mainly in the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The main reason for these crimes is a result of people marrying without their family’s acceptance, especially when it is between members of two different castes or religious groups, or, more particular to northwestern India, between members of the same gotra, or exogamous clan. In contrast, honor killings are less prevalent but are not completely non-existent the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Honor killings are reflected in nationwide data from the National Crime Records Bureau. That data showed 251 honor killings in 2015, though activists considered that a significant undercount. The same records bureau reported only 24 honor killings in 2019. According to a survey by AIDWA, over 30 percent of honor killings in the country take place in Western Uttar Pradesh. In some other parts of India, notably West Bengal, honor killings completely ceased about a century ago, largely due to the activism and influence of reformists such as Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Vidyasagar and Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
Haryana has had many incidences of honor killings, mainly among Meenas, Rajputs and Jats. Role of khap panchayats (caste councils of village elders) has been questioned. Madhu Kishwar, a professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, claims that only 2% to 3% honor killings are related to gotra killings by the khap or caste panchayats, rest are done by the families. “Will you ban families? there are plenty of tyrannical police officials, plenty of incompetent and corrupt judges in India who pass very retrogressive judgments, but no one says ban the police and the law courts. By what right do they demand a ban on khaps, simply because some members have undemocratic views? Educated elite in India don’t know anything about the vital role played by these age-old institutions of self-governance.” In March 2010, Karnal district court ordered the execution of five perpetrators of an honor killing and imprisoning for life the khap (local caste-based council) chief who ordered the killings of Manoj Banwala (23) and Babli (19), a man and woman of the same gotra who eloped and married in June 2007. Despite having been given police protection on court orders, they were kidnapped; their mutilated bodies were found a week later in an irrigation canal. In 2013, a young couple who were planning to marry were murdered in Garnauthi village, Haryana, due to having a love affair. The woman, Nidhi, was beaten to death and the man, Dharmender, was dismembered alive. People in the village and neighboring villages approved of the killings.
The Indian state of Punjab also has a large number of honor killings. According to data compiled by the Punjab Police, 34 honor killings were reported in the state between 2008 and 2010: 10 in 2008, 20 in 2009, and four in 2010. Bhagalpur in the eastern Indian state of Bihar has also been notorious for honor killings. Jagir Kaur a prominent Sikh leader was also charged with allegation of Honor Killing of her daughter and she was sent to jail . However murder charges were dropped later by court . Recent cases include a 16-year-old girl, Imrana, from Bhojpur who was set on fire inside her house in a case of what the police called ‘moral vigilantism’. The victim had screamed for help for about 20 minutes before neighbors arrived, only to find her smoldering body. She was admitted to a local hospital, where she later died from her injuries. In May 2008, Jayvirsingh Bhadodiya shot his daughter Vandana Bhadodiya and struck her on the head with an axe. Honor killings occur even in Delhi.
Honor killings take place in Rajasthan, too. In June 2012, a man chopped off his 20-year-old daughter’s head with a sword in Rajasthan after learning that she was dating men. According to police officer, “Omkar Singh told the police that his daughter Manju had relations with several men. He had asked her to mend her ways several times in the past. However, she did not pay heed. Out of pure rage, he chopped off her head with the sword”.
In 1990 the National Commission for Women set up a statutory body to address the issues of honor killings among some ethnic groups in North India. This body reviewed constitutional, legal, and other provisions as well as challenges women face. The NCW’s activism has contributed significantly towards the reduction of honor killings in rural areas of North India. According to Pakistani activists Hina Jilani and Eman M Ahmed, Indian women are considerably better protected against honor killings by Indian law and government than Pakistani women, and they have suggested that governments of countries affected by honor killings use Indian law as a model to prevent honor killings in their respective societies.
In June 2010, scrutinizing the increasing number of honor killings, the Supreme Court of India demanded responses about honor killing prevention from the federal government and the state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.
Alarmed by the rise of honor killings, the Government planned to bring a bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament July 2010[needs update] to provide for deterrent punishment for ‘honor’ killings.
In 2000 Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu (nicknamed Jassi), a Canadian Punjabi who married rickshaw driver Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu (nicknamed Mithu) against her family’s wishes, was brutally murdered in India following orders from her mother and uncle in Canada so that “the family honor was restored”. Her body was found in an irrigation canal. Mithu was kidnapped, beaten and left to die, but survived.
Tamil Nadu has had 192 cases of honor killings, most relating to marriages between a woman higher in the caste hierarchy than the man she marries. These marriages in particular are considered “dishonorable” since the women of the caste are responsible for its continuation, by having children. According to Kathir of anti-caste group Evidence, “There is this firm belief that if I get my daughter married to someone of my own caste, I have succeeded in safeguarding it. And if not, one’s prestige is challenged, and then there is barbaric anger”. In 2016, Chinnaswamy, a member of the Thevar community dominant in the southern part of the state, ordered the killing of his daughter Kausalya and her husband Shankar, belonging to the Dalit Pallar community. The crime, taking place at Udumalaipettai Bus station, was caught on video with Shankar hacked to death in broad daylight, while his wife barely escaped alive. The accused in the case were at first sentenced to death, but later Chinnaswamy was ruled “not guilty” and the other killer’s sentences were reduced.
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