We write all too often about “honor killings” here on Care2, which are particularly prevalent in rural parts of India. Just last month, I reported on two women who were bludgeoned to death by men from their village (including one of the women’s nephew) because they were suspected of having a lesbian relationship. Now, the Indian Supreme Court has taken a harsh stand on honor killings, saying that those convicted of such crimes should receive the death penalty.
“It is time to stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices which are a slur on our nation,” said the court.
Each year, according to a recent study, hundreds of people are killed for violating some element of their family’s honor code – whether it’s inter-caste marriage, premarital sex, adultery, or another social taboo. People are rarely given the death penalty when they are convicted of honor killings, but that may be about to change. Ruling in the case of a man who had been accused of strangling his daughter, Justice Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha said,
“All persons who are planning to perpetrate ‘honor’ killings should know that the gallows await them. He cannot take the law into his own hands by committing violence or giving threats of violence. In our opinion honor killings, for whatever reason, come within the category of rarest of rare cases deserving the death punishment.”
I feel very ambivalent about this declaration, despite the horror of the crimes which the Supreme Court is trying to address. Because I am staunchly against the death penalty, I can’t condone its extension, even for these terrible actions, which are often encouraged by village councils and sanctioned by larger communities. But I do admire the Supreme Court’s apparent resolution to end honor killings in India. They should start, though, with trying to convict and jail more people who have committed honor killings, rather than declaring that they, too, should die.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.