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Horror killings — conflict between rigid tradition, modernity


New Delhi: With a spate of so-called ‘honour killings’ shocking the nation in recent weeks, human rights activists say the increase in such cases is a testimony to the growing conflict between rigid family tradition and modernity. They also feel the problem can be resolved by increasing awareness and bringing tougher legislations.

“While the younger generation wants to break the shackles of traditional family norms, the older generation wants to teach them a lesson for violating the rules they have been following since ages,” says Ravi Kant, president of Delhi-based NGO Shakti Vahini. “Our politicians are tyring hard to showcase India as an emerging superpower. But we have not made enough efforts to educate the rural masses who comprise 70 per cent of our population,” Kant, also a Supreme Court lawyer, said.

“Honour killing is like any other social problem which can be fought with awareness and stronger legislation. We need to convince people who give their social customs more priority than anything else that these young people are making their own choices and that is not against the rule of law,” he said.

A series of cases, where young men or women were murdered for marrying outside caste or within the same sub-caste or against the family’s wishes have come to the fore in recent times. Delhi had back-to-back cases in the past two weeks.

Only a few politicians have spoken against such crimes because caste can determine an election win or loss, felt Kant, whose organisation had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Supreme Court on this issue. Hearing the petition, the apex court had last week asked the Centre and eight state governments to submit reports on the steps taken to prevent such barbaric crimes.

According to the UN Population Fund, such crimes are being committed across the globe and mostly in the Asian continent since ages. It estimates that around 5,000 women are killed in this way every year worldwide, vast majority of them in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.  In March this year, a Haryana court sentenced five people to death for murdering a couple on the orders of a ‘khap panchayat’ — a traditional unofficial local council. Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily has said that the government would soon come out with a law against honour killings and a draft has already been prepared.

Welcoming this, senior Supreme Court lawyer P N Lekhi said, “Offences like honour killing are social offences and strict laws are needed to combat them.”

Another Supreme Court lawyer Shanti Bhushan said, “Making the crime a separate offence would attract more attention from the authorities as well as common man.”

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