Honour killings in India and need for urgent reforms and new laws | United India

Honour killings in India and need for urgent reforms and new laws | United India

Honour Killing in India: A Violation of Human Rights and Dignity

Honour killing is a term used to describe the murder of a person by their own family members or community for allegedly violating the norms of honour, tradition, or religion. Honour killing is often motivated by the desire to preserve the reputation or status of the family or community, especially when it comes to matters of marriage, love, sexuality, or caste.

Honour killing is not a new phenomenon in India. It has been reported since the time of partition, when many women were killed by their own relatives to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy¹. However, honour killing has become more visible and prevalent in recent years, especially in the northern regions of India, such as Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. These regions are known for their rigid caste system and patriarchal culture, where women are expected to obey their families and marry within their own caste or religion.

According to the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, 145 incidents of honour killing took place in India between 2017 and 2019. However, this number is likely to be an underestimate, as many cases go unreported or are registered under other categories of crime. For instance, Evidence, an NGO working to protect the human rights of Dalit and Tribal people in Tamil Nadu, reported that there were 195 known cases of honour killing from Tamil Nadu alone in the past five years.

The victims of honour killing are mostly young men and women who choose to marry or love someone outside their caste or religion, or against their family's wishes. Sometimes, even having a friendship with someone of a different caste or religion can trigger violence. The perpetrators of honour killing are usually the parents, siblings, relatives, or members of the local caste councils (khap panchayats) of the victims. They often justify their actions by claiming that they are protecting their honour, tradition, or religion from being tainted by the victims' choices.

However, honour killing is a gross violation of human rights and dignity. It deprives the victims of their right to life, liberty, equality, and privacy. It also violates their right to choose their own partner and express their own identity. Honour killing is a form of gender-based violence, as it disproportionately affects women and girls, who are seen as the property or carriers of honour of their families or communities. Honour killing also reflects the deep-rooted patriarchal and feudal mindsets that continue to oppress and control women's autonomy and decision-making in India.

The Indian Constitution guarantees the right to life, liberty, equality, and dignity to all its citizens, regardless of their caste, religion, gender, or marital status. The Supreme Court of India has also affirmed the right of adult individuals to marry or love someone of their own free will, without any interference from their family or community. The Court has also recommended that the legislature enact a law specifically to address the issue of honour killing.

However, there is currently no national legislation that explicitly deals with honour killing in India. The existing laws, such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, are not adequate or effective enough to prevent or punish honour killing. The only state that has passed a special law on honour killing is Rajasthan, which enacted the Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill of 2019. This law provides for death penalty or life imprisonment for honour killing, as well as other provisions that criminalise intimidation, harassment, and interference with the liberty of a couple.

There is an urgent need for a comprehensive and uniform law on honour killing at the national level, which would define honour killing as a separate offence, prescribe stringent punishment for the perpetrators and accomplices, protect the rights and safety of the victims and witnesses, and prevent the influence of khap panchayats or other unlawful assemblies on matrimonial matters. Such a law would also send a strong message to the society that honour killing is not acceptable or justifiable in a democratic and secular country like India.

Apart from legal reforms, there is also a need for social reforms and awareness campaigns to change the mindset and attitude of the people towards honour, tradition, and religion. Honour killing is not a matter of honour, but a matter of shame and dishonour for the whole nation. Honour killing is not a part of tradition, but a part of violence and oppression. Honour killing is not a part of religion, but a part of ignorance and intolerance. Honour killing is not a solution, but a problem that needs to be eradicated from the roots.


(1) Addressing ‘Honour Killings’ in India: The Need for New Legislation. https://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/addressing-honour-killings-in-india-the-need-for-new-legislation/.

(2) Honour killing in India - Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/legal-awareness/honour-killing-in-india-33953/.

(3) Honour killings in India and need for urgent reforms and new laws. https://blog.ipleaders.in/honour-killings-india-need-urgent-reforms-new-laws/.

(4) Honour killing in India - Finology. https://blog.finology.in/Legal-news/honour-killing-in-india.

(5) Honour killing in India - Legal Service India. https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-1014-honour-killing-in-india.html.

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