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Honour Killings In India


Contrary to the notion that social change is inevitable, honuor killing is one of the most barbaric customary practices still held by the Indian society today. Honour killing is an extension of domestic violence that suppresses the rights and freedom of individuals who by their actions are deemed to deviate from the norms of the wider society. The Indian case presents a society that is tightly controlled by social sanctions that dictate the lifestyle of its members as regards to their; dressing code, sex orientation, and marital relationships. Honour killing can thus be defined as a form of group behavior in which a family or social group punishes social deviants by customary murder.

In my opinion, honuor killing is a form of domestic violence that arises from communal tolerance of abuse. Though the problem of honour killing is not confined to India, the country has the highest prevalence and severity level in the world at over forty percent. The complexity of India’s case emanates from the caste system in the country whose ideology compliments the practice of honuor killing. From a spatial perspective, it is apparent that the practice of honour killing is sustained in societies or communities with cultural inclinations that uphold violence-legitimizing norms.

Though honor killings affect both sexes, most of the victims are women who either engage in premarital sex, extramarital sex or marriage outside their respective castes. The practice affects men only in cases where the son-in-laws are killed as well. Honour killing is therefore largely gender-based violence which in India’s case; is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. Contextually, honour killings are driven by the need by men to limit perceived women dominance by physically violating them leading to low women status. The problem is further aggravated by the fact that marriages are exogamous in India in which case women are forced to live within their extended family household subjecting them to even higher risk of abuse. Thus honour killings can be attributed to ideologies that normalize sexual and gender inequality which ultimately culminate to tolerance of abuse.

India’s caste system is a rigid cultural system resistant to social change and upward mobility between the social strata. Despite the dynamics of globalization and modernity, members of such a community ride on the premise that social class status must be protected by all means possible including killing close family members. The believe that sexual and marital interactions across the castes constitutes losing caste status, is a mindset that has been and will continue to drive this primitive act of customary murder for centuries unless a paradigm shift in social policy is put in place.

The prevalence of this primitive practice in modern India can be attributed to constitutional lapses which have lead to inadequate conventional legal instruments to fight the practice since independency. The current magnitude and direction of this heinous crime underscores the need for the national government to reform the Hindu Marriage Act and incorporate elaborate clauses that can lead to the criminalization of cultural homicide. The fact that honuor killings are currently under-measured and ubiquitous is a key factor that has made it difficult to demystify the practice. This is compounded by the notion that honour killing is confined to the rural areas contrary to reality. The fact that honour killings are not confined to the rural areas is evident with the recent honour killing of the twenty one year old Bahvana Yadav who was strangled by her parents in November, 2014 for secretly marrying a twenty four year old Abdhishek Seth apparently from a different caste.

To stop the practice of honour killings, the Indian government must create a legal and conceptual framework that can foster constitutional reforms aimed at containing the primitive practice of honour killings. Special attention should be directed towards mainstreaming honuor killings into criminology. Social policy analysts should center on establishing policy instruments that demystify the mindset of class struggle in the rigid caste system. Subjective violence is enacted by social agents, evil individuals, disciplined repressive apparatuses, and fanatical crowds. Thus Line ministries, donor agencies and other key stakeholders need to come up with policies geared towards enhancing human rights awareness campaigns not only in rural areas but urban setting as well to moderate group behaviors that can discourage honuor killings among the populace.

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