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Honour Killing In South Asia

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By Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava *

Honour killing is rampant in South Asia where in its core countries India and Pakistan each about 1000 killings take place every year according to Honour Based Violence Awareness Network (HBVA) . It means about six women are daily killed in the name of protecting honour of the family and society or caste or groups

In eastern Pakistan’s Punjabi village of Satrah, recently a newly married boy and girl were killed by the family of girls. They were angry that she had gone for a love marriage that too with lower class. The killing was so horrible that both were invited by the girls family and then tied and their throat was cut. A very sad and inhuman act.

The honour killing act reminds us that in South Asia’s two major countries India and Pakistan are not much different on this issue. A significant section of their societies are still lacking the universal values of equality and liberty. In these sections it is not only the father but the brothers too who hold respect to inhuman, anti women conservative values. It also reminds that laws only can not prevent the honour killing like incidents but it is complete overhauling of the archaic thinking and conservative mindsets of the individuals which is needed to eliminate the evil.

It is so because honour killing thought is deeply entrenched in the minds of some people who think that particular individual mainly the girls have brought defame and disrespect to them with respect to their wider social establishment by going against their wishes on marriage, love and friendship or any household work.

It is purely antifeminist thinking. Women in these societies are considered as property which have no individual existence and can be treated as decided by the males. The male domination is so much complete that it is not only father but brothers too who maintain their authority over the women. They treat them as their personal fiefdom and after marriage this control of authority is passed to their husband. Thus it is a sort of transfer of property rights to the next one.

Honour killing emerges mainly in the societies which still believes in the old traditional and conservative values. Though no religion supports their execution still none including the religious leaders come in opposition to these inhuman activities.

Honour killing is an integral part of abuse against women. This can not be excluded from the violence against women. The violence against women is prevalent in all societies and countries but it is more in South Asian and MENA like societies. India has adopted , enacted its constitution which in elaborated way grants rights of equality to its citizens but in real manner at the societal level these equalities are not available. Pakistan is more declined in this respect where huge section of women have yet to assert their basic liberty and equality which though has been asserted by women to a certain extent in India. Basic liberty recognizes women as possessed with similar values of liberty coupled with equality which males have. Equality is first to be granted, then only liberty in true sense can be realized. Its non granting is major cause of violence against women. Honour killing hence needs to be looked in a wider perspective.

In South Asia a collective action was thought by members of SAARC in Colombo summit , 1996 to deal with the social problems prevailing in the region. India and Pakistan came together and in the Twelfth SAARC Summit, Islamabad,2004, the SAARC Social Charter was signed which aimed many things but empowerment of women, youth mobilization, human resource development, promotion of health and nutrition, and protection of children were specific to women. National Coordination Committees (NCCs) in all Member States, National Action plans were formulated but so far a collective impact on the condition of women have not been realized. These efforts have failed to control honour killing like evils. Honour killing like social evils still prevail which shows that political commitment at country and regional level is widely lacking.

In this background what can be done? This needs to be thought. Civil Society Organizations (CSO) will have to play a vital and crucial role. When government efforts are full of gaps then CSOs have more responsibility. The collaboration among the CSOs of the region on such issues is more critical. They may form a regional initiative and can influence the government for more strict legislation and can also make aware the population about such social evils.

Media can play more important role by highlighting the issue with unbiased reporting and by visiting the sites of such ghastly incidents and bringing the social group as caste, clan or family in more open so that a collective attack on such perpetrators may prevent others to practice it. Government may also engage these organizations , moreover a more strict law regime needs to be developed to contain such crimes.

We must remember in this respect Raja Ram Mohan Roy who fought against the conservative father and family when his sister in law was put on Sati in 1812. He fought against conservatives in his religion to abolish this cruel evil. Honour killing is similar to Sati. Raj Ram Mohan Roy succeeded in elimination of Sati, why can then not be all the sane people of the South Asia collectively fight honour killers.?

This evil transcends the national boundaries telling all of us that social problems of the region are almost similar. The status of women with respect to life in terms of family and social honour is same. Hence problem is one so effort too needs to be unified.

* Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava has twenty years University level teaching experience, presently Assistant Professor in CSJM Kanpur University[affiliated college],Vice Chairman CSSP, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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