Honour Killings in India


It is an act of murder by the family on the family members to bring honour to the family to eradicate the shame and dishonour brought by the family member. The male member of the family kills the female member who has violated the wishes and honour of the family. This is a kind of pre-planned murder by the members of the family against the member who had bought shame to the family.

Mostly these acts are caused due to trigger done by the relatives, society, neighbours by whom the accused feels dishonoured and gets provoked. Mostly these occur against the female who are assumed for sexual and marital offences. In situation where the members should be a support for the female are against them and brings a situation where they should not exist. India is a democratic country as every citizen has their rights and freedom to do acts which does not violate law. In a society where the citizens are equal without any discrimination, honour killing brings discrimination where the family member is considered to bring dishonour by choosing a person of a different caste. Caste and status are the main reasons for honour killing in the present world as the caste and status changes for a girl when she goes to her husband house.

A woman eloped with her love against the wishes of her family. One day her brothers  on the pretext of taking her to her new home tried to kill her on the way. It was a dark night when they stopped the car by the canal and started firing bullets at her. When one bullet passed through her hand, they fired again and this time the bullet grazed her cheek and she laid there unconscious. They threw her into the canal. It was only when she felt the water that she tried to get hold of some weeds and pulled herself out. Her father and brothers are under the charges of attempt to murder and kidnapping. When her father was interviewed, he said that he had not committed any crime; instead he just prevented his daughter from “dishonouring” the family and the community.

In the above described incident, the victim lived to tell her story but sadly, that is not the truth in many cases. Hundreds and thousands of women, to say the least, die every year as a result of abuse and crime in the name of “honour”. That brings us to discuss the most important question that pops up in our mind.


Every society and every religion has its own set of customs and practices that they have been following for years now and gradually they become the norm. One such norm which can be witnessed being practiced most commonly in the Indian societies is that a woman should marry as per the whims of the family members. She is not allowed to choose a man for herself or marry someone whom she loves. If she is courageous enough to go against all these so called “rules”, she is said to have brought shame/disgrace upon the family or is blamed of “dishonouring” them in front of the entire community.

In India  honour of the family is not only believed to be hampered in cases where the woman protests against forced marriages but also if she tries to come out and talk about her own sexuality. The family often tries to kill or abuse her to the extent that she is forced to kill herself.

The term “honour crimes” is misleading because it not only validates killing in the name of honour but also gives the notion that such killings are a part of the culture or the norm of the society.


An honour killing, or honour killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonour upon the family or community.The perceived dishonour is normally the result of one of the following behaviours, or the suspicion of such behaviours: dressing in a manner unacceptable to the family or community, wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice, especially if to a member of a social group deemed inappropriate, engaging in heterosexual acts outside marriage and engaging in homosexual acts.

Human Rights Watch Defines “Honour Killings” As Follows :

Honour killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonour upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonours” her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.

Men can also be the victims of honour killings by members of the family of a woman with whom they are perceived to have an inappropriate relationship. The loose term “honour killing” applies to killing of both men and women in cultures that practice it.

Sharif Kanaana, professor of anthropology at Birzeit University, says that honour killing is:

A complicated issue that cuts deep into the history of Arab society. .. What the men of the family, clan, or tribe seek control of in a patrilineal society is reproductive power. Women for the tribe were considered a factory for making men. The honour killing is not a means to control sexual power or behaviour. What’s behind it is the issue of fertility, or reproductive power.


Honour Killings are not a new/unique concept to any society, culture or religion. It is something that has been going on since decades and the society has constantly tried to nip the matter in the bud. The violence on the pretext of honour was primarily between men only and sometimes even included women as collaborators. But, more often than always, it was committed by men against women and children who were believed to have harmed the reputation (honour) of the family.

In most of the Arab nations, the practice can be traced back to the pre-Islamic times. The Arabs followed a tradition of burying the newly born girl child. In the ancient Roman times, the pater familias (senior male member of the family) was vested with the right to kill a sexually active unmarried daughter or an adulterous wife. In Medieval Europe, the Jewish Law provided for mandatory death (by stoning, wherein the person undergoes blunt trauma until death) for adulterous wife and her lover/partner.

Honour killing in India has its origin since ancient ages. Since ancient time, people commit homicide of their family member and portray these murders as an act done to protect the honour of the family. Honour killings since past has emerged mostly as gender based crime and has been used as a tool to retain patriarchal dominance in the society over women folk.

Honour killings have been reported in northern regions of India, mainly in the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, as a result of people marrying without their family’s acceptance, and sometimes for marrying outside their caste or religion.

In India, the Khap or Caste panchayats which refers to a union of villages have lately emerged as a quasi-judicial body that reside over gatherings and impose punishments based on their age old customs and beliefs. Khap is a cluster of villages having caste or geography as the common element among members. It’s customary for the Khaps to oppose inter-caste marriages, inter-village marriages and marrying within the same gotra (clan). Khap panchayats on the other hand are formed by coming together of same gotra families from various surrounding villages to form a council to govern their respective khap.The khap being based on one large gotra or a number of closely related gotras under one elected leader whose word is law. Mutual quarrels of any intensity could be settled under the leader’s orders and in times of danger, the whole clan rallies under the banner of the leader. In the recent times the khaps have been drawing negative criticism towards themselves for holding prejudice against other groups, the involvement or support of khaps in initiating threats of murder and violence and the practice of Honour killings against couples who marry outside the caste, or behavior which is not considered as suitable by the khap.The khap panchayats are still in practice dispite it being beyond legal limits due to vote bank politics and indifference of society in certain sections.

In contrast, honour killings are rare to non-existent in South India and the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. In some other parts of India, notably West Bengal, honour killings ceased about a century ago, largely due to the activism and influence of reformists such as Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Vidyasagar and Raja Ram Mohan Roy.Among Raj puts, marriages with members of other castes can provoke the killing of the married couple and immediate family members. This form of honour killing is attributed to Raj put culture and traditional views on the perceived “purity” of a lineage. The Indian state of Punjab has a large number of honour killings. According to data compiled by the Punjab Police, 34 honour killings were reported in the state between 2008 and 2010: 10 in 2008, 20 in 2009, and 4 in 2010. Haryana is also notorious for incidents of honour killing, mainly in the upper caste of society, among raj puts and jaats. Bhagalpur in the eastern Indian state of Bihar has also been notorious for honour killings. Recent cases include a 16-year-old girl, Imrana, from Bhojpur who was set on fire inside her house in a case of what the police called ‘moral vigilantism’. The victim had screamed for help for about 20 minutes before neighbours arrived, only to find her smouldering body. She was admitted to a local hospital, where she later died from her injuries.

In 1990 the National Commission for Women set up a statutory body in order to address the issues of honour killings among some ethnic groups in North India. This body reviewed constitutional, legal and other provisions as well as challenges women face. The NCW’s activism has contributed significantly towards the reduction of honour killings in rural areas of North India15 According to Pakistani activists Hina Jilani and Eman M. Ahmed, Indian women are considerably better protected against honour killings by Indian law and government than Pakistani women, and they have suggested that governments of countries affected by honour killings use Indian law as a model in order to prevent honour killings in their respective societies.


The roots of honour killing lies in the view that honour of man are linked with his woman and can be hampered because of her conduct. It is because of this notion that they started putting restrictions on woman. Woman and her sexuality became the property of man. Later, this idea was associated with caste system or clan or gotra and thus gave rise to defiance to inter-caste marriage or to marriages done within same gotra. Most of the owner killing cases are associated

with marriages. Any change in conduct of society is seen as bringing down the honour of family, tribe or community and only way that seem possible to people to regain such honour is sacrifice of the member of their own family in the name of honour killing.

Non State Legal Practices- Khap Panchayat :

Khap Panchayat is the union of a few villages, mainly in north India though it exists in similar forms in the rest of the country. Lately they have emerged as quasi-judicial bodies that pronounce harsh punishments based on age-old customs and traditions, often bordering on regressive measures to modern problems. Traditionally these assemblies settle disputes between individuals and villages. However these bodies lack any constitutional or legal basis. Khap Panchayats are undemocratic in origin. They have unwritten laws and their decisions are clearly illegal and unconstitutional. Without application of law and acting on their whims and wishes, they impose self-created norms backed by sanction in the name of preserving morals

and values of the society.

Khap panchayat is an endogamous Jats body which exists around Delhi, some parts of Haryana,western Uttar Pradesh and adjoining areas. It is a gotra-centric panchayat and Khap members are supposedly linked through blood. These bodies lay certain rules for the villages under their control to follow and non-compliance of these rules results in severe punishments. These Khap Panchayats are mostly considered as the one of the reason for crimes like Honour Killings. Along with other spheres of the life of village, these institutions also frame rules regarding marriages and any marriage occurring in violation of such rules are seen as defiance to their rules and are met with brutal and severe punishments. Such punishments includes annulling the marriage, declaring the married couple as siblings and dissolving their marital tie,

ostracizing the families and ordering killings, temporary or permanent ex-communication, corporal punishment, religious expiation, forcing the girl to divorce her husband. Death executed by the caste panchayats is one of the worst articulations of violence. Usually, violence and death are considered preferable to condoning or accepting a mixed marriage. Their verdicts also include nominal or substantial fining, ritual expiation, public humiliation which means blackening the face or rubbing the nose in the dust before the aggrieved party or the entire

gathering, touching other’s feet, shaving the head or drinking or dipping the nose in the urine of one or more persons, beating, giving feast to the caste members, out-casting, expelling from the village or requiring the offender to repent by seeking forgiveness of the village elderly.

While on one hand, such brutal side of Khap Panchayats is revealed, on the other hand there are some Khap Panchayats who are deviating from their traditions and, rather than punishing people marrying outside caste, are accepting marriages done outside castes. There is a recent case where Satrol Khap Panchayat in Narnid village of Haryana has amended their 600 years old norm and has allowed inter-caste marriage. The head of the Khap Panchayat said that such a decision has been taken in the wake of changing social pattern and also declining sex ratio in the State.

Khap Panchayat over decade has created their villainous image and has turned into an institution which won’t hesitate to go to any extent in order to satisfy their ego. However, with the passage of time there has been considerate change in the thoughts and rituals of Khap Panchayat and might be seen in near future as an institution which will oppose honour killings rather than promote it.

Cases of Killing in the Name of Honour in North India:

Over decades there have been thousands of cases associated with honour killings. These cases make evident the brutality of family which never hesitated even for seconds before killing a member of their own blood. The icing on the cake is that they boost about their deeds and became proud of it and claims that they have protected and raised the honour of their family by punishing the one who has brought disgrace to the family.Some of the cases of honour killing in North-India are pointed out below:

1. In 2014, in Naurankhera Village of Sonipat District, Haryana, a father killed his 18

years old daughter (Sarita Devi) when he found her with her lover (Dinesh Kumar).

Both of them were undergraduate student at Gohana college and belong to different

castes. The father and grandfather of the girl were arrested.

2. In 2014, in Kansala village of Rohtak District, Haryana, a villager killed his sister Murti Devi, 32 years, for having illicit relations with a relative. The lady was married and had two children but then she fell in love with her husband’s relative and started living with him and enraged by this her brother shot her. A charge of murder was framed against her brother.

3. In 2015, in New-Delhi, 20 years old boy, Sagar was mercilessly beaten and killed after having discovered him having illicit relation with a 16 year old minor girl. The relatives of the girl took him to an isolated place in Shahibabad and their killed him. All the accused have been arrested.

4. In 2014, a Delhi University student, Bhavna Yadav was murdered by her father and

mother for having secretly marrying her boyfriend, who belongs to different caste.

According to the news reports, the victim Bhavna Yadav a resident of south west Delhi, was beaten up, strangled, and her body then dumped into a car which was driven to Alwar, Rajasthan (where her parents are originally from) and hurriedly cremated. The victim’s father is a property dealer and mother’s a homemaker. A maternal uncle was also allegedly involved in the crime.

5. In 2002, Nitish Katara who was in relationship with Bharti Yadav was murdered.

Bharti’s brother battered him to death and afterwards set his body afire. All three

accused have now been sentenced to life terms for abducting and killing Katara.

6. In May 2010, Nirupama Pathak, who was working as journalist with a business daily in Delhi, was murdered by her family in Jharkhand because she was in a relationship with a man from a lower caste. Nirupama was dating Priyabhanshu Ranjan. Nirupama was found dead on 29 April in her parents’ house in Tilaya in Koderma district in Jharkhand under mysterious circumstances. Her family then filed a case of rape and abetment to suicide against Priyabhanshu which was later found to be false. While her mother called it a case of suicide, a post-mortem revealed that the journalist was smothered to death and that she was 10-12 weeks pregnant at the time of her murder.Nirupama’s mother was arrested but later the court set her free as the police found a suicide note signed by Nirupama. In 2012, her boyfriend surrendered to the police in a case of abetment of suicide.

7. In June 2012, reports came out that a young woman Deepti Chhikara was killed, and her body was then dumped in Uttarakhand. The girl, who was a school teacher at an MCD school, was strangled to death by her mother Birmati and brother Mohit, and later her uncle Amit helped the duo in disposing of the body. Deepti wanted to marry one Lalit Vats, but her family was opposed to the match as he was from a different caste.

8. In a landmark judgment in March 2010 of Manoj & Babli, case whereby the Karnal

District Court has ordered the execution of the five accused and gave life sentence to

the head of Khap Panchayat. Manoj & Babli was the members of the same gotra who

eloped and got married. Latter they were being murdered by the members and their

bodies were being placed near the cannel. The District judge Vani Gopal Sharma in her verdict stated, “This court has gone through sleepless nights and tried to put itself in the shoes of the offenders. Khap Panchayats have functioned contrary to the Constitution, ridiculed it and have become a law unto themselves. This is the first case where by Khap Panchayat is for the first time convicted by the court for the case of honour killing in India. It has been hailed by many experts and media that this judgment is a landmark judgment.


The main reason for commitment of an ‘honour killing’ is belief that any member of family had brought dishonour to the family. The dishonour can be of different types for different families. The perceived dishonour is normally the result of the following behaviours, or the suspicion of such behaviours, which are dress codes unacceptable to the family/community; or wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice; or engaging in certain sexual acts, including those with the opposite or same sex, etc.

Also the most obvious reason for this practice to continue in India is because of the fact that the caste system continues to be at its rigid best and also because people from the rural areas refuse to change their attitude to marriage. Also in our country the society is mainly the patriarchal. Men are expected to enforce such norms and traditions and protect family and male honour from shame. Women are expected to conduct themselves honourably. This understanding of the notion gives legitimacy to all forms of social regulation of women’s behaviour and to violence committed against them.

So far, there is no specific law to deal with honour killings. The murders come under the general categories of homicide or manslaughter. Sometimes the honour killings are also done by a mob and so when a mob has carried out such attacks, it becomes difficult to pinpoint a culprit. The collection of evidence becomes tricky and eyewitnesses are never forthcoming. But ‘Honour Killings’ are against International Law on Human Rights and against United Nation agendas. But still even though we don’t have any law to deal with it specifically in India but we have judicial precedence over it. There are also some bills which are in the latent stage against the honour killings, which are planned to be introduced in the parliament sooner.

Some other causes of Honour Killing:

• Allegation of pre-marital or extra-marital sex.

• Refusal for an arranged marriage.

• Inter-caste or inter-religious marriage.

• Pregnancy not related with legally married husband.

• Homosexuality.

• Live-in-relationship.

Reasons For Increasing Incidents Of Honour Killings : Religionalization of laws such Hindu personal law,muslim personal law,christan personal law etc.Women’s are forced to consider every aspect of their life from the perspective of their “honour “as a quality which is felt to reflect both the entirety of their social worth and reputations of male members of their family. male reputation is depend upon female “honour”. female “honour” is passive in nature cantering on qualities such as subordinacy , modesty ,and patience, whereas male “honour” is active and dynamic, centring on qualities such as self-assertion, dominance and social status. once female honour is lost through any act which is considered dishonouring in her society, there is no way it can be regained. Other members of her family may face pressure to take violent action which will restore their position in society


Honour killings are murders by families on family members who are said to have brought shame on the honour and name of family. These are acts in which a male member of the family kills a female relative for tarnishing the family image. The term is also defined as the purposeful pre-planned murder, generally of a woman, by or at the command of members of her family stimulated by a perception that she has brought shame on the family. There are laws and treaties signed by India which protects such crimes.

1. The Constitution of India has ample provisions allowing an individual to exercise

his/her choice independent of caste, religion or gender and protection from honour

related crimes including honour killings. Such killings also violates Articles 14, 15 (1)

& (3), 17, 18, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees to every person the right to equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws. Every person, whatever is his or her status or situation is subject to the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts.

2. Honour killings involve the murder of a particular person especially a woman and thus come under the ambit of Section 299 and Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code. It is also violation of Article 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution.

3. The main reason behind the enactment of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 was to provide a special form of marriage for the people of India and all Indians residing in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party, to perform the intended marriage. The Act is relevant in cases where the Khap Panchayats have forcefully separated married couples who are of eligible age to get married.

4. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was

enacted by the Parliament of India, in order to avert atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Act is linked to honour killings because numerous incidents of honour killing are in relation to caste and religion.

5. The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006 makes the provision for

protection of individual rights of human beings and the constitution of a National

Human Rights Commission, State Human Rights Commission and Human Rights

Courts for better protection of human rights of individuals.

6. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides for more

effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

7. Article 13 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 makes provision to punish those who

conceal facts, either before or at the time of, or after the alleged crime.

8. India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all formsof Discrimination against Women (CEDAW 1979) and has also ratified the convention. The provisions of CEDAW can be used to argue that the tradition and practice of punishing individuals for ill informed ideas of dishonouring the family, is essentially institutionalized discrimination against individuals and creates a legally binding obligation for India, as a State party to the convention, to take all measures to end all forms of the practice of honour killing and ensure that all discrimination against women in matters relating to marriage and family relations are eliminated, providing them with the equal right to enter into marriage and to freely choose a spouse and to enter into marriage with their free and full consent.

9. Under Article 12 of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural

Rights (ICESCR 1976) State parties have to take all steps to ensure the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Crimes of honour that involve sexual violence and mental violence or physical or mental torture obstruct the right of women to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health. India, as a State party, is therefore legally obligated to ensure that individuals and victims of crimes of honour are able to avail this right.

10. Two major UN documents call for the elimination of honour killing. The concept of elimination appears in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) and in Working towards the Elimination of Crimes against Women Committed

in the Name of Honour (2003). But the eradication of any such phenomenon like honour killing requires a serious intervention in the status quo. Equal gender relations have not yet been achieved and violence still exists in the name of honour. The whole system in itself is patriarchal and insensitive.



Honour Killings have emerged as a social evil and each and every institutions of society has to put forth a hand in order to eradicate this evil from the society. Certain recommendations to do so include:

1.Media: Media can play an effective role in spreading awareness about the rights available to victims and about the unconstitutionality of Khap Panchayat’s verdicts.

2. Female Feticide: It is very necessary to improve declining sex ratio. It is the main

cause behind occurrence of Honour Based Crime sin male dominant society.

3. Education: Education can be seen as one of the most effective tool to eradicate this social issue and change the misunderstandings and ill-predictions of human mindsets.

4. Valid Laws: Laws should be made clear and strict as far as honour killing is

concerned. Such laws will act as deterrent to people in committing such heinous crimes.

5. Women in Khap Panchayat: Problems of women can only be sort out by women

being a part of Khap Panchayat. It is only then their problems and grievances can be

seen and understood.

6. Caste System: Caste based discrimination should be removed. It can be removed

only by acceptance of inter, intra-caste marriages.

7. NGO’s: NGO’s should actively come forward to spread awareness regarding illeffects of honour killings and also should protect the rights of those infringed or

hampered because of honour based violence.

8. Mentality: Most of the people in rural areas consider their duty to abide by the

verdicts of Khap Panchayat, instead of weighing such verdicts on the compass of right or wrong. There are also people who think that inter-caste marriage is bane on the family name. Such mentality should be changed. Such people should be made aware about the ills of the path to which they have proceeded and in the way they are sacrificing their near and dear ones.

9. Politicians or Influential People: Work of politician and influential people

should be directed towards welfare and development of whole in spite of their own self


Honour killing is a crime committed in order to uphold the honour of the family. But it is high time we realize that there is no such honour in killing a person. Culture or customs and Religion should not be an excuse for committing such crimes because they are open ended and we as humans tend to misinterpret them. The right to freely practice religion does not guarantee the right to kill. Everyone has right to life with full dignity and equality. Hence active laws are the only antidote to such dishonourable practices.

In order to eradicate the evils of honour killing there should be introduction of new acts or legislationswhich should be very strict and bring in the scope to every person whoever commits this crime, penalize them with strict punishment so that it create a fear in the minds of the people who tries to commit it. Strict laws will discourage people in acting or committing such a heinous crime

Hence, in my opinion, in order to curb this evil, the term “honour” needs to be redefined and that can be done by:

Spreading more awareness: Honour Killings are most common in rural areas and in almost all cases the victim is a girl and since they are the ones who have least access to education, they are not aware of their rights. Therefore, they hesitate to fight back and take it as a punishment for their own fault.

Social Reforms: Mentality of the people is the root cause for the happening of such crimes. Inter-caste marriages are still considered a taboo. Society demands change with the changing times. Furthermore, the fear of acceptance by the society should not stop people from reporting such cases as it will only be then that the matter will come to the limelight.

Strict legal backing: Even though such killings can be made punishable under several other laws, it is to be mentioned that such laws provide only umbrella rights and there is a need for a strict specific codified law to be in place so as to deter the society and punish the real culprits for commission of such heinous crimes.

References –  




Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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