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Plight of Choice: Honor Killing

On August 17, 2023, Anjali Deshwal from Surehti village in the Jhajjar district of Haryana was strangled to death by her family members. The reason behind her murder was her marriage outside her caste and within her village. This case exemplifies a stark instance of honour killing, where a woman paid the price for making an independent choice and challenging the norms of patriarchy.

What is Honor Killing?

Honour killing, also known as shame killing, involves the punishment of individuals who defy or breach traditional societal norms imposed by existing structures. Perpetrators often justify these acts as a means to uphold "order" and "stability" within society. Instances of honour killings are the outcomes of caste-based rules in Indian society, with patriarchy playing a significant role in its perpetuation. These acts are further legitimized through the propagation of "societal morality" as religious reasons, thereby limiting the choices available to individuals. According to the National Crime Records Bureau Report for 2020, a total of 25 cases of honour killings were reported across the country. However, an NGO named Evidence claims that in the same year, 195 instances of honour killings took place in Tamil Nadu alone. These discrepancies highlight the unreliability of available data, with many of these atrocious acts likely going unreported.

Why Honor Killing?

India continues to be a collectivist society that prides itself on preserving its culture and traditions. This inclination towards tradition has often allowed the persistence of orthodox ideas within the society. Despite discussions about economic progress, rising liberalism, and individualism, the deeply rooted patriarchal structure and caste hierarchy persists, maintaining a history of minority oppression and authoritarian ideologies.

Although the state has facilitated access to education and the internet in remote parts of the country, deeply ingrained casteist attitudes continue to thrive, safeguarding caste boundaries and resisting change. Additionally, the absence of a specific legal framework to address honour killings categorizes these acts as homicides, resulting in a lack of comprehensive data and understanding of such cases. The rise of Khap Panchayats, acting as parallel quasi-judicial bodies, further exacerbates the situation. These bodies often undermine the secular aspects of the Indian State and advocate for judgments that perpetuate heinous acts to maintain their dominance and uphold the stratified society.

The Way Forward

The Special Marriage Act of 1954, designed to facilitate inter-caste and inter-faith marriages, symbolizes India's commitment to secularism. However, the success of this legislation remains limited, as conservative mindsets and the continued significance of caste and religion influence personal choices. The absence of comprehensive policies and definitive laws creates opportunities for aggressive organizations to exploit legal loopholes.

For India to evolve into a developed nation, there must be a transformation in mindsets, embracing individual choices and discarding caste identities in favour of intellectual and economic progress. The country needs to promise its citizens a future marked by egalitarianism and freedom.






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