28 Jul

Following is the text of the statement made by the Union Home Minister, Shri P.Chidambaram in the Rajya Sabha today in response to a Calling Attention Notice regarding increasing incidents of so-called honour killings and honour-related crimes in the country and the role of self-proclaimed panchayats therein.

“Honour crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, mostly committed by family members predominantly against female relatives, who are perceived to have brought dishonour upon the family. Honour killings are rooted in antiquated traditions and social values. Since “honour killing” is not a crime classified separately under the Indian laws, no data is collected separately regarding this crime by the National Crime Records Bureau, and the same is covered under ‘murder’. Moreover, it is difficult to identify or classify an honour killing as such in any given community, since the reasons for such killings often remain a closely guarded private family matter. There is no separate law to deal with the crime of ‘honour killing’, and such crimes are dealt with under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and are investigated and prosecuted as offences under the IPC/Cr. P.C.

2. ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Constitution. The responsibility for dealing with enforcement of the laws pertaining to these two subjects, including prevention, registration, detection, investigation, prosecution and punishment of crimes against women, lies with State Governments.

3. Some caste Panchayats are known to approve of these killings as reported in the media and thus are accomplices in the violation of the laws. However, caste Panchayats are informal bodies and have no legal status as such. Often, villagers give precedence to the judgement of a caste Panchayat rather than that delivered by the courts of law.

4. I recoil with shame when I read in the newspapers that two teenagers – a Dalit boy and a Muslim girl – were brutally killed in a village near Meerut, Uttar Pradesh in the name of honour. Or when I read that a young man, accompanied by a warrant officer was killed when he was on his way to fetch his wife from a village in Jind district, Haryana. Or when I read that a newly married couple in Delhi fear for their lives following a fatwa issued by a Panchayat in Jhajjar district, Haryana. Hon’ble Members will note with regret that these incidents happened last week. The vilest crimes are committed in the name of defending the honour of the family or women and we should hang our heads in shame when such incidents take place in India in the 21st century.

5. The United Nations’ “Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, 2002” as well as the latest report i.e. “15 Years of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (1994-2009) – A Critical Review” do not mention India in the context of honour killings.

6. However, the Government of India is deeply concerned about violence against women and recognizes that real progress can only be made by addressing the causes that are rooted in anachronistic attitudes and false values. More efforts need to be made through educational and awareness campaigns in the communities and through sensitization of law enforcement agencies. Towards this objective, Government of India has initiated a number of legislative and ameliorative measures to check such crimes which include:

(i) Enactment of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which provides for more effective protection of the Constitutional rights of women, who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family;

(ii) Setting up of helplines for women in distress under the Swadhar Scheme of Ministry of Women and Child Development;

(iii) Support services to victims of violence through schemes such as Short Stay Homes and Swadhar under which shelter, maintenance, counseling, capacity building, occupational training, medical aid and other services are provided;

(iv) Redressal of grievances through interventions of National and State Commissions for Women; and

(v) Economic empowerment of women through the programmes of Rashtriya Mahila Kosh, Swashakti project and Swayamsidha Project by Ministry of Women & Child Development.

7. Instructions/guidelines have also been issued to the State Governments/Union Territory Administrations to effectively enforce legislation relating to crimes against women and improve the administration of the criminal justice system and take such measures as are necessary for the prevention of crimes against women. The measures suggested include:

(i) sensitize police officials charged with the responsibility of protecting women;

(ii) vigorously enforce the existing legislations;

(iii) set up women police cells in police stations and exclusive women police stations;

(iv) provide institutional support to the victims of violence;

(v) provide counseling to victims of rape;

(vi) ensure wider recruitment of women police officers;

(vii) train police personnel in special laws dealing with atrocities against women;

(viii) appoint Dowry Prohibition Officers and notify Rules under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961;

(ix) sensitize the judiciary and police and civil administration on gender issues; and

(x) follow up reports of cases of atrocities against women received from various sources, including NCW, with authorities concerned in the Central and the State Governments.

8. Government deplores crimes committed allegedly to uphold the honour of the family or the victim or women in general and would welcome a wide discussion on how to prevent such crimes.”


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