Washing Hands Off If Centre can’t stop honour killings, who will?

THE TRIBUNE , CHANDIGARH WRITES A STINGING EDITORIAL ON THE LACKASIDAL APPROACH OF THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT AND THE STATE GOVERNMENTS ON THE ISSUE OF HONOUR KILLINGS. THIS PETAINS TO THE PUBLIC INTERST LITIGATION BEING HEARD BY THE SUPREME COURT ON SHAKTI VAHINI PETITION.

THE TRIBUNE EDITORIAL

Passing the buck is a favourite hobby of sarkari babus but one wishes they do not indulge in such a pastime when an issue as vital as honour killings is under consideration. The Centre has smugly told the Supreme Court in its affidavit that police and public order are state subjects under the Constitution and it is the state’s responsibility to deal with the offences in question. That is a fact known even to school students. Can the Centre evade responsibility by taking this plea is the moot point. How serious the states are in curbing the menace can be gauged from the fact that Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, where honour crimes are the most prevalent, have not even replied to the notice sent to them by the Supreme Court full one year ago.

However, the disingenuous argument of the Centre does not stop at that either. The affidavit goes on to say that the Centre does not interfere in the personal laws of any community unless the demand comes from within the community. One wonders how the personal law comes into the picture. Nobody has the right to kill or harass someone just because he or she has married in own gotra (clan). A crime is a crime. Even if by some stretch of imagination, what happens within a clan is passed off as a “personal matter”, the fact remains that only 3 per cent of the documented cases of honour crimes involve couples married in their gotra. Most of the others relate to couples in inter-caste marriages.

The affidavit grandly says that the freedom of choice with respect to marriage has been specifically recognised and protected under our legal framework and under every personal law women have the same right to enter into a marriage with free and full consent. Ironically, this right has rarely been endowed on the young couples who dare to marry against the wishes of their families or even village elders. They are hounded, tortured and killed. Laws are very much there. Will someone kindly care to enforce them?

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Can’t do much to curb honour crimes: Centre

Says it follows policy of non-interference in personal laws of any community

Aditi Tandon/TNS  / New Delhi, July 6

Washing its hands off the unabated rise in the cases of honour crimes in the country, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that it does not interfere in the personal laws of any community unless the demand comes from within the community itself. It has also said police and public order are state subjects under the Constitution and it is the state’s responsibility to deal with the offences in question.

Erroneously linking honour crimes to personal laws (there is ample evidence that majority of honour killings in India involve couples in inter-caste marriages and not those that marry within the gotra), the government, in its affidavit to the apex court, says, “Family relations in India have traditionally been governed by religious and personal laws. The freedom of choice with respect to marriage has been specifically recognised and protected under our legal framework and under every personal law women have the same right to enter into a marriage with free and full consent. At the same time, given the cultural and social diversity of the country, the government has adopted a policy of non-interference in the personal laws of any community…”

Ironically, a study on honour-related deaths in India, commissioned by the National Commission for Women, found in July last year that only 3 per cent of the documented cases of honour crimes involved couples married within their gotra. “In this petition, there is no meaning of the mention that the government does not interfere in the personal laws of communities. Honour crime is an issue of a couple’s freedom of choice to marry and their human rights, nor of personal laws. The Centre has a Ministry of Women to ensure the wellbeing of the fair sex. It can’t escape by saying that police and public order are state subjects,” Rishi kant of Shakti Vahini, the petitioning NGO, told The Tribune.

The petitioners will now seek an urgent hearing before the Supreme Court considering Haryana and UP, the biggest reporters of honour crimes, haven’t replied to the matter in a year. The case was filed in June last year.

On the other front also, the Home Ministry’s affidavit in the matter inspires little hope. Except mentioning that the government has constituted a Group of Ministers to debate the need of amending the IPC or a separate law on honour killings, the affidavit steers clear of stating what immediate steps the Centre was taking to prevent such killings and if it was doing enough to publicise SC’s directions in the matter, including the one that said the DCs and the SSPs would be responsible for any such crime in their area.

Haryana, UP ignore notice

Haryana and UP have not replied to the notice sent to them by the Supreme Court which is hearing a petition on what the state governments and the Centre are doing to prevent honour killings in India. The case was filed in June, 2010.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20110707/main7.htm

A Challenge to Doing Gender Justice by Violence

HONOUR KILLINGS IN INDIA

HONOUR KILLINGS IN INDIA

NILANJANA S ROY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES / INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE

NEW DELHI — A little more than an hour’s drive away from the capital, the rule of law yields to a more primitive form of justice. In the northern state of Haryana, in large parts of Uttar Pradesh and in Tamil Nadu in the south, women’s and civil rights advocates have expressed growing concern over the often deadly verdicts passed by local councils known as khap panchayats.

The councils, usually all male and held together by caste or clan ties, hear local disputes, and their extrajudicial verdicts are taken seriously, especially in the more conservative parts of northern India.

According to Shakti Vahini, a nongovernmental organization that has been advocating that the government take punitive action against councils that decree or abet violence against women and minorities, the main umbrella body in northern India, the Sarv Khap Panchayat, has 300 subordinate councils, controlling roughly 25,000 villages in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The verdicts of these councils have often been chilling for women.

In 2004, the Tevatia clan council issued a decree stating that families with fewer than two sons could not approach a village council for the settlement of property disputes. The implication was that families with daughters did not deserve equal consideration.

After the 2004 tsunami ravaged Tamil Nadu, journalists noted that single and widowed women had been excluded from financial relief and compensation for losses. Local councils argued that they were not entitled to a share, because their families could take care of them. And over the past decade, an ugly pattern of so-called honor killings and punitive rapes ordered by various community councils has emerged, as the Indian Supreme Court recently noted with alarm.

Last month, the Supreme Court spoke out against the councils in a landmark ruling by Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra. The ruling marked the first time the court had condemned the role of councils in honor killings and other crimes against women and Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, and had directed state officials to initiate criminal proceedings against councils whose edicts led to violence.

“There is nothing honorable in honor killing or other atrocities and, in fact, it is nothing but barbaric and shameful murder,” the justices said. “Moreover, these acts take the law into their own hands, and amount to kangaroo courts.”

The councils reacted angrily to the ruling, with the Sarv Khap Panchayat declaring its intention to file a review petition.

For Jagmati Sangwan, president of the Haryana All India Democratic Women’s Association, the court’s stand was welcome.

Ms. Sangwan, who also teaches women’s studies at Maharishi Dayanand University in Rohtak, Haryana, has been campaigning against the local councils since 2002, when she led a group of women into a meeting of the Rohtak council to protest the exclusion of women. (A few councils have begun to allow women to observe the proceedings, though there are no women serving on the Sarv Khap Panchayat.)

“A ban on the khap panchayats is not practical,” said Ms. Sangwan in an interview. “They will come back in some form or the other. What we need are working laws that will punish the councils when they violate women’s rights and civil rights. There had been no attempt to punish the council representatives before this verdict — there is a lack of willingness at the state level. The court’s verdict might bring some change, even if it’s slow.”

Over the last decade, the local councils have taken a hard line on the social changes that swept across India, seeking to ban women from dancing and wearing jeans, and trying to prevent young women from using mobile phones. In Tamil Nadu this year, a local council declared a social boycott on a woman for breaking tradition by filing a domestic violence case against her uncle and other family members.

But the darkest legacy of these extrajudicial courts has been a string of honor killings. Ravi Kant, a lawyer and a founder of Shakti Vahini, said the organization’s research found a relationship between the local power of the community councils and a rise in such killings. In districts where councils play an active role, there have been more honor killings than in districts where the councils are dormant or absent. Shakti Vahini recorded 121 honor killings since 2005 in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi, most of them the result of council edicts.

In 2008, the village of Balla in Haryana witnessed the killing of a couple by family members for the crime of marrying within the same gotra, or caste family, which is forbidden by tradition. In 2009, the Banawala council declared a marriage illegal for similar reasons. The husband was killed by local villagers, while his wife was beaten and confined to her family’s home.

The most notorious case has become a kind of shorthand. In rural Haryana, people mention not the Manoj-Babli murders, but simply “Manoj-Babli” — referring to the killing of a young couple by members of the girl’s family and to a local court ruling that became the first in modern Indian history to find council members guilty of incitement to murder. In the wake of the verdict, activists have been pressing for stronger laws and enforcement, and the Supreme Court has directed other courts to classify honor killings among the rare crimes that take the death penalty.

“The root cause behind all of the violence,” said Ms. Sangwan, “is the need to disenfranchise women. The idea that women have a democratic right to marry the person of their choice is deeply threatening to the panchayats. The foundational issue is a question of property rights.”

She was referring to the strong preference in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in particular for women to marry outside their villages, on the assumption that a woman who moves away can lay less claim to her paternal inheritance.

“The violence has been there for years in our society, but at least now it’s coming into the light,” she said.

In the Haryana village that gained notoriety for the Manoj-Babli murders, Manoj’s sister Seema Kumari spoke of her family’s fight to get justice for her brother and sister-in-law, with the case under review by the Supreme Court.

“We have gone through so much,” she said. “But one should never give up. It’s not just about us. It’s about millions of people who, in spite of the obstacles, fight for justice.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/18/world/asia/18iht-letter18.html?ref=world

Govt sits on report wanting khap curbs

Study conducted a year ago blamed khaps for fuelling honour crimes

Aditi Tandon/TNS New Delhi, May 14

Over a year ago, a government-sponsored study on the prevalence of honour crimes had found such offences to be the most common in areas with khap panchayat dominance. Submitted to the Ministry of Women and Children Development (WCD) for action, nothing came out of the findings which revealed that law enforcers as well as people (both rural and urban) in the affected states agreed that khaps were raising the right issues (81 per cent of the 300 police personnel interviewed and 46 per cent of the 600 residents sampled believed so).

Though the study recommended both legislative (which the Group of Ministers set up for the purpose is already debating) and non-legislative measures to curb honour killings, stressing the urgency of acting against khaps and sensitising policemen and people, no initiative was taken by the government.

After the Supreme Court made scathing observations against khaps perpetrating these crimes, Ravi Kant, founder of Shakti Vahini, which conducted the study, told The Tribune that the least the ministry concerned could have done in a year is to send out advisories to the states to prevent crimes and launch a national awareness campaign on the issue. WCD Ministry officials said they had referred the study to the GoM, which is working on the structure of the anti-honour crime bill expected to be introduced in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

But Kant asks: “Why wait for the legislation when the government can do so much on the non-legislative side to prevent these crimes. Honour is a social issue, which must be tackled at a psychological level. If 85 per cent policemen agree with khaps on opposing same-gotra marriages, what change can we expect from a law?”

Quite tellingly, the study, concludes that “khaps have a sizeable following; are quasi judicial; are being used as tools to consolidate political power in the affected areas; are even being used as launch pads for aspiring politicians; are dominated by Jats who hold major power and land share in the affected states, primarily Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.” It also finds that while khaps take anti-women stands, they have no women’s representation; also that honour crimes are the most prevalent in areas with khap dominance.

“Since six years, khaps have been providing fuel for honour crimes. The situation has remained normal in districts where khaps are absent. The worst affected are Jhajjar, Jind, Fatehabad and Rohtak in Haryana and Meerut, Baghpat and Muzaffarnagar in UP. Of the 560 victims profiled, 121 were killed – 48 in UP, 41 in Haryana; 17 in Punjab and 15 in Delhi,” states the study, seeking changes in the IPC to define honour crimes; in the Indian Evidence Act to put the onus of proving innocence on the accused and in the Special Marriage Act to make the process of marriage less lengthy.

While the GoM is working on the amendments and will take a view shortly, there is zero progress on the non-legislative side, barring occasional comments from the Supreme Court, which has made known its anguish and angst over honour crimes. But the states are clearly not bothered.

Stinging Study

  • Khaps more about consolidating power than about issues
  • Honour crimes increasingly involving inter-caste and not same-gotra marriages.
  • In Haryana, 81% victims had married out of caste; in Punjab, no case of honour crime involved same gotra wedding
  • Marriage laws too lengthy, make couples vulnerable
  • Law enforcers play negative role; support khaps

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20110515/main7.htm

Halt honour killings, rules SC

THE TRIBUNE / New Delhi, April 19

The Supreme Court today directed all the state governments to immediately suspend the District Magistrates/Collectors and SSPs/SPs if they failed to apprehend those responsible for honour killings or prevent such incidents despite having advance knowledge.

Khap panchayats “often decree or encourage honour killings or other atrocities in an institutionalised way on boys and girls of different castes and religion, who wish to get married or have been married, or interfere with the personal lives of people.

“We are of the opinion that this is wholly illegal and has to be ruthlessly stamped out,” a Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra held in a verdict.

Observing that “there is nothing honourable in honour killings or other atrocities,” the Bench said such crimes “committed by brutal, feudal minded persons deserve harsh punishment. Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism and feudal mentality. Moreover, these acts take the law into their own hands, and amount to kangaroo courts, which are wholly illegal.”

The officials who failed to prevent such incidents or apprehend the culprits should also be chargesheeted and proceeded against departmentally “as in our opinion they will be deemed to be directly or indirectly accountable in this connection,” the apex court ruled.

“Copy of this judgment shall be sent to all Chief Secretaries, Home Secretaries and Directors General of Police in all states and Union Territories with the direction that it should be circulated to all officers up to the level of District Magistrates and SSPs/SPs for strict compliance. Copy will also be sent to the Registrars of all high courts who will circulate it to all Hon’ble Judges of the court,” the Bench said.

The SC issued the directions while dismissing an appeal by those convicted for a similar crime in Tamil Nadu. The appellants “have behaved like uncivilised savages, and hence deserve no mercy,” the Bench noted.

Pointing out that several such instances were being reported, the SC said “the nation is passing through a crucial transitional period in our history, and this court cannot remain silent in matters of great public concern, such as the present one.”

“The caste system is a curse on the nation and the sooner it is destroyed the better. In fact, it is dividing the nation at a time when we have to be united to face the challenges before the nation unitedly. Hence, inter-caste marriages are in fact in the national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system,” the Bench said.

HARYANA , UTTAR PRADESH FAIL TO REPLY

ADITI TANDON / TRIBUNE

On a day when a youth in Haryana’s Bhiwani district beat two women to death in full public view, it turns out that Haryana along with Uttar Pradesh is the only state among nine others that were put on notice last year by the Supreme Court in a matter involving frequent honour killings at the behest of khap panchayats.

On June 26 last year, the apex court, while hearing a civil writ petition, issued notices to nine state governments where khap panchayat verdicts in the so-called cases involving family’s honour, were rampant. The states were directed to submit detailed affidavits stating the steps they had taken or planned to take to tame the community panchayats and punish the perpetrators of honour crimes.

While Rajasthan was the first to file its reply on October 18 last, and Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chandigarh and Delhi followed suit, Haryana and UP governments – which together account for the maximum burden of honour crimes in India – continue to sit pretty and remain unresponsive to the issue, exhibiting their blatant prejudice against the girl child, which was recently reflected powerfully in the provisional Census data.

The petition, filed by Shakti Vahini, which works against khap panchayats, had sought directions to the states to prevent the khap panchayats from unleashing terror on couples marrying on will. It is still pending in the Supreme Court.

But even in one full year, Haryana and UP failed to come up with their affidavits. A study earlier commissioned on the issue by the National Commission for Women concluded that in 84 per cent of honour crimes, the girls’ families had been found to be the perpetrators. Haryana, western UP and Punjab led the honour crime graph, according to the said study done last year.

‘Special’ police station in Faridabad

WORKSHOP ON CHILD PROTECTION AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN HELD AT FARIDABAD IN COLLABORATION WITH POLICE DEPARTMENT

WORKSHOP ON CHILD PROTECTION AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN HELD AT FARIDABAD IN COLLABORATION WITH POLICE DEPARTMENT

PRABHU RAZDAN , HINDUSTAN TIMES

The officers were lectured to be sensitive while dealing with cases of domestic violence, human trafficking, child abuse, etc. “Faridabad‘s Central Police station has been designated as the nodal police station to deal with cases of human trafficking,” said AK Rao, Joint Commissioner of Police, Faridabad.

“The cops selected for working in this special cell of Central Police station will receive proper training and also study about human trafficking through distance education,” Rao said. The workshop of police officers was held to change the “mindset of the policemen” towards sensitive issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking, etc.Some of the policemen attending the workshop presented a grim view of the actual situation on ground. They said it was totally different than what the prescribed laws preach.”Police has to deal with cases in which women and children are involved very carefully so that their rights are protected,” said Ravi Kant, a supreme court lawyer and head of NGO Shakti Vahini while making presentation before the policemen at the workshop.”But on the ground we come across many cases when a woman snatches chain of another woman. It then becomes difficult for the police to handle such cases,” said SHO SGM Nagar Ravinder Kumar.

“We had a case in which a woman got a case registered against her husband under 498A(dowry), took money from him, married another man and leveled similar charges against him too,” Kumar said.”In such a situation what are we supposed to do?” he asked.The police officers said the Central police station in Faridabad is among one of the three such police stations to deal with human trafficking cases in entire Haryana. “One is in Panchkula and another one in Gurgaon,” Rao added.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Special-police-station-in-Faridabad/Article1-678052.aspx

LOK SABHA COMMITTEE ON EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN MEETS ON 21ST DECEMBER ON HONOUR KILLINGS AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

A representation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka...

Image via Wikipedia

The winter session has come to an end, but parliamentary committees continue to meet to discuss important issues.  Some of them are:

  • Lok Sabha Committee on Ethics | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: Adding to procedure of Lok Sabha,  rules to incorporate a committee on ethics, specify its functions and procedures to be followed by the committee
  • Lok Sabha Committee on Empowerment of Women | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: Informal interaction with with NGO Shakti Vahini on the subject Honour Killings and other forms of violence against Women
  • Committee on Water Resources | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: Evidence of the representatives of the Ministry of Water Resources on The Dam Safety Bill, 2010
  • Committee on Finance | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: 1. Oral hearing of the representatives of (i) Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and (ii) US India Business Council (USIBC) on the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008’. 2. Further oral evidence of representatives of Ministry of Finance (Department of Revenue) and Enforcement Directorate on ‘Tax exemptions and related matters in respect of IPL/BCCI’

SOURCE: http://prsindia.org/theprsblog/2010/12/17/important-committee-meetings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=important-committee-meetings