Barbarian Spurt in Epidemic of Honour Killing Must Stop
Surrey, BC Canada, July 15, 2010
Dr. Raghbir Singh Bains
An “honour killing” is a murder committed against a woman for a specific or assumed immoral behaviour involving adultery, sex outside of marriage, inter-caste marriage without consent of family, or refusing to agree to an arranged marriage that is deemed to have breached the ‘honour code’ of the family. Honour killing is the most horrific social evil that has rampantly come to the surface of the world. Honour killings differ from plain and psychopathic homicides, serial killings, revenge killings, racial killings, and killings due to domestic violence. No denying the fact, killings of young women by their families existed since immemorial times and continue to be passed through generations onward. Far from feeling remorse at the gruesome killings, the family elders are defiant, justifying that such killings are necessary for the honour of the family. It is a tragedy that such cases were not highlighted either by the media or by the society. Therefore such cases could not catch attention in the past. Moreover, in connivance with law enforcing agencies, many a times such killings are still incorrectly suppressed and cleverly reported as suicides or accidental deaths.
The honour killings are disturbingly high and obviously of a serious concern. Recent reports submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights show that honour killings have occurred in Canada, US, UK, Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda etc. UN reports that 5000 cases of honour killing are officially reported in the world every year. There are no official figures for the number of "honour killings" in India but some legal experts quote the figures more than 1000 a year. According to a report, 1,015 such killings took place in Pakistan last year. During the past two-and-a-half years — from 2008 till date — 34 honour killings have taken place in the state of Punjab in India: 10 in 2008, 20 in 2009, 4 so far in 2010. Of the total 34 cases, 16 were reported from Tarn Taran district of Punjab. The Supreme Court of India issued notices on June 21, 2010 to the provinces like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar etc. to submit reports about steps taken to stop honour killings in those provinces.
Gender Discrimination is Root Cause
Till today, there is no equality of gender in various countries of the world. Woman is treated as a property of male in the family. The owner of such property has the right to make decision about it. The concept of women as a vessel of the family reputation continues to predominate in most of the countries. Thousands of women in the world are murdered by their kith and kin each year in the name of family "honour”. Many honour killings are abetted and enabled by relatives, caste Panchayats and so called socio-religious institutions. The coercive pressures include social and economic boycott, dissolution of marriage, imposing of fines on the family of the boy and their supporters, externment from the village, public humiliation, threats and harassment against relatives
Women are expected to remain modest, pure, obedient and virginal at marriage. They are required to subjugate their personal freedom in order to uphold the honour of the family and community. Astonishingly, male members of society are not bound by the same degree of rules and expectations. The discrimination must end.
Why Honour Killings?
For some societies, if somebody marries out of caste, he/she deserves to be killed. For others, if somebody marries within the same caste, he/she deserves to be killed. If somebody marries against the wishes of his/her parents, then he/she deserves to be killed. If somebody bears a child out of wedlock, she deserves to be killed. If somebody is raped, she fears reporting to the police because ultimately she shall be blamed. Young people who choose to love under sway of sexual lust, immodest engagement in sexual relations outside marriage or marry outside their caste, clan or religion ignoring the socio-cultural values of family are killed in name of ‘family honour’. Honour killing kills the deceased and threatens others. The murder is committed to enforce the sexual code of conduct set by the cultural violence and warning others who might be tempted to breach that code. Killing is done to restore reputation and honour of the family and community at large. In fact, violence is intended to subjugate and intimidate women.
Youth is Drifting Away From Social Pressures
There is generational shift in the world. Youngsters normally defy cultural and social taboos. Girls along with boys of Asian culture have become too much westernised. They lean more towards materialistic glamour, sex, drugs and unrestrained freedom. Parents fail to connect with their children. Generational gap is widening day by day. New generation is distancing itself from long earned cultural lifestyle of their forefathers. A girl cannot perform love marriage or marriage with a boy of the same village. This is treated as incest. Tradition does not sanction it. Social taboos do not condone pre-marital sex, flirting, marital infidelity or rapes. On the other side, woman does not stay silently and miserably behind those closed doors any longer. Exposure to Bollywood films, lusty serials, satellite television channels, internet, cell phones, modern education, dancing bars, midnight clubs, dissolute music and growing incomes in the post-liberalisation era are some of the factors for the conflict between traditional mores and modern influences on youth behaviour. Neither parents and nor children are ready to sit on a table to discuss the issues. Youngsters lack in parental respect. Lack of discipline in educational institutions and work places have become meeting places of lusty romance for many boys and girls who get motivation to cross moral and sexual discipline. Whatever may be, murder is after all a murder.
Modes of Honour Killing
The concept of family honour is justified in the eyes of some societies. Females in the family—mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, and cousins—frequently support the attacks. It is a long routed community mentality that honour killings go across many cultures and across various religions. Women are brutally, sliced, poisoned, strangled, burnt, stoned, shot, flogged or whipped because heads of family feel ashamed. Killers say they do it for their honour and prestige.
Solutions to the Problem of Honour Killing
Honour Killing is not only a legal crime but also a social crime. It is a murder. Nobody has the right to take life of another person. There should be no leniency to the perpetrators of "honour" killings. Rather than killing daughters in name of honour, parents and socio-religious mentors must come forward to educate the society as a whole about good values of family life. Parents and leaders should strive to raise public conscience to safeguard children and the youth against immoral influences. The parents irrespective of their cultural background wish their children to live a pure, modest and virtuous life. This is not easy to achieve. The children must be groomed right from their childhood with the family values to respect and maintain purity of mind and body. The youth must understand that adultery and lust is an extreme level of immodesty and a vice. Desecration of marriage vows and sexual act outside marriage is an act of cheating.
They must stay away from many things that lead them to un-chastity and immodesty which results in damage to life and canker to the soul. They must understand that love is not a plaything or merely to satisfy physical passions and lusts. They must realize that conduct of chastity prohibits all sexual relations outside marriage. The law of chastity is the same as it was yesterday, is today, and shall remain the same tomorrow. Divorces and separations amongst innocent and immature couples involved in lustful sex, infidelity, incontinence, filthy communications, impurity and inordinate affection are touching mountain heights. To curb the evils, the respective governments must take serious action against honour killers, adulterers, licentious, whores, prostitutes, sodomites and rapists who prompt innocent girls to immodesty that may bring bad name, insult and infamy to them, their family and the country.
However, the barbarian spurt in epidemic of honour killing must end.
Dr Raghbir Singh Bains
Author: Encyclopaedia of Sikhism
Multimedia Sikh Museum
#8-8918, Street-128, Surrey, BC.
Canada, V3V 5M7