India must ask: where is the honour in killing?
Three men were arrested by Delhi police this week for “honour killings” days after the Supreme Court asked eight Indian states to stop these so-called “honour” killings, where family members, typically men, kill daughters and their husbands for apparently bringing dishonour to the family by marrying below their caste.
The killings, in a posh neighbourhood in Delhi, brought the tragic and shameful story of honour killings closer home to Delhi residents, who had so far dismissed the rising instances of these killings as a feature of rural India, equating them to a more traditional and conservative India they claim not to inhabit.
The clash between tradition and modernity is not new and is not unique to India, where more than two-thirds of its population lives in rural areas, and where more than half the population is below the age of 25 years.
Satellite television, education and rising numbers of working women have all been blamed for an erosion of family values and the Indian ethos, and the corruption of its youth.
When did killing young women become a part of the Indian ethos? Why is punishment by death an admirable family value?
In a country where a majority of youngsters still have marriages “arranged” by their parents, caste and religion dominate matrimonial conversations.
Activists say despite growing modernisation — or perhaps, because of it — the number of honour killings has been rising steadily in the last few years, particularly in some northern and central Indian states, where village elders often order such killings.
Families don’t report these cases, and police are often loath to take action because they see them as little more than family disputes. And few politicians have spoken against them because caste can determine an election victory or loss.
So it was left to the Supreme Court to take a stand; the law minister and the prime minister have spoken of a bill to end such crimes and to crack down on village courts that endorse these killings.
But until we acknowledge that these are indeed heinous crimes, we only bring dishonour to ourselves and fail our youth, particularly our women.