Honour’ crimes are a matter of great shame for any country that calls itself a democracy. This was one conclusion common to all speakers at the discussion titled ‘Honour’ killing or violation of human and legal rights’ at the India International Centre on July 13, 2010. The event was organised by Women Power Connect (WPC), an NGO.
“We have traditions in India but they shouldn’t turn into a sickness in society wherein people are getting killed for marrying in the same gotra or lineage. The issue of the so called honour killings has to be seen at different levels – socio-cultural, political and economic,” said Dr Ranjana Kumari, president, WPC.
“Why do those who get killed or are made to leave the village mostly belong to lower or lower middle classes, bearing the burden of tradition in society? Why are their families socially ostracised? Why are brothers killing their sisters? Does that have something to do with the sisters’ right to property that she might exercise after marrying someone of her choice? It’s is a gender issue, where especially women get targetted,” said Kumari.
“There are dishonour killings,” said Supreme Court advocate Ravi Kant, also the president of NGO Shakti Vahini. “Khaps comprise Jats in Haryana but these are few people playing on Jat emotions for bhaichara (brotherhood) with political aspirations in mind. Jats have started asserting their identity only after the Manoj-Babli case in which the duo (from same gotra) eloped but were caught and killed,” he said. Kant has extensively worked the area of women and child rights.
“As per our study, the main issue is of inter caste marriage not same gotra marriage. Also, more than 90 per cent killings are executed from the girl’s side. The centre and state governments should break their silence on this issue and come out with a statement, without indulging in jat vote-bank politics,” he demanded.
Yasmeen Abrar from the National Commission for Women (NCW) opined that there were enough laws in the Indian judicial system that need to be implemented well. Also people need to be sensitised about the definition of ‘honour’ itself and in doing that help in changing rural mind-sets.
Zohra Chatterji, member secretary, NCW was of the opinion that the real issue also is that of generational gap between parents and their children with the latter having education and exposure to take decisions that don’t go well with parents.
The final and the most applauded speaker was Dr Kiran Bedi, retired IPS officer. She demanded written statements about efforts made towards preventing dishonour crimes from the prime minister and states where they are rampant. She also demanded similar statements from various ministries like home, law, women and child welfare, Panchayati Raj, human resource development, youth affairs, information and broadcasting and even bar councils.
She asked media houses to come in campaign mode against this social evil. It’s also a governance issue and all these departments are accountable and can help improve the situation, she said.
Others speakers who expressed solidarity include Rashmi Singh, director, Mission Convergence, Delhi government and Mr Mani from NHRC.
At the end of the discussion, it was finally decided to form a deputation and to visit the prime minister and president to apprise them better about the criticality of the issue.