The UK’s Guardian yesterday reported on a triple murder of family members in India that is being said to highlight a distressing rise in honour killings in the country. A new husband and wife, along with the wife’s female cousin, were each shot in the head twice last Sunday evening. The victims had no reason to suspect their murderers –-the murderers were their relatives.
An honour killing is the murder of a (generally female) family member by fellow family members, where the murderers believe the victim to have brought dishonour upon the family, clan, or wider community. The perceived dishonour can be for a number of different reasons; for example a woman dressing in a way that is considered unacceptable, or rejecting an arranged marriage. We’ve covered this topic before on Zelda Lily – back in the November of last year, Dharma reported on the killing of a young woman in Arizona, by her father, for being ‘too Western.’
Honour killings result from the perception that defense of honour justifies killing a person whose behaviour dishonours a family. The Guardian reports that a recent study concluded that there are over 1000 honour killings a year in India, and that in recent weeks the Indian capital of Delhi has seen an unprecedented rise in such cases.
In the case of the triple murder the Guardian reports on, it is thought that the age of all involved is significant. Both the perpetrators of the crime and their victims were born in the 1990s, a time of major change in India, that liberalised the Indian economy and sparked rapid growth. These young adults grew up in post-reform India and were part of a new generation reaching the age of marriage with very different views to other members of their family.
Prem Chowdhury, a respected Indian historian and researcher, reportedly said that:
‘The situation is very volatile. The marriage market is very tight and that causes huge problems. Youngsters react very strongly. If a woman makes an independent choice she has to pay the penalty.’
I just think this is so sad. OK, so the three young murderers acted without direction from others, but I think it’s pretty clear, even from such a brief news story, that these young men grew up in a culture steeped with the rhetoric of honour, patriarchal authority and violet retribution for those who transgress from accepted behaviours. Just like the recent story here on Zelda Lily about the stigma that surrounds infertile women in India, from this story I’m left with the impression that there are certain social stigmas and traditions still very much in evidence in India that are having a massive impact on the lives of women in the country – in this case, resulting in murder.
In no way can I personally see how a life sentence for murder is more honourable than a daughter or sister whose ideology is a little different to that of some of her family members. But then again, I’m a long way (both geographically and culturally) from situations like this. What do you guys think of these stories?