Skip to content

“Honor Killings”: An Analysis with Video

March 13, 2011
Every few days a teenage girl or young woman is killed somewhere in India, by her family or community, for the apparently terrible crime of falling in love.

Many of these extra-judicial murders (or “honor-killings”) are sanctioned by community based councils, called the Khap Panchayats. Even though the Khap Panchayats are unofficial, they operate outside the realm of India’s system of law and order, and are tyrannical in the power they exercise over local communities, including the police!
Here is an excerpt (from India Today) from the conversations of an under-cover journalist, pretending to be villager,  talking to a policeman regarding a girl from his village who apparently has run away with her lover.

Police: If we get them, we will hand over the girl to you. You can get her married. And if that doesn’t please her enough, then do what you suggested. But I won’t suggest that. It is a sin. But if it is a big problem then kill her and dump her there itself.
Reporter: I think that is what we will have to do.
Police: In case you are doing this then dump her in the jungle or some where behind the bushes but far away from where you stay.
Reporter: Yes we will manage it far from home, what else.
Police: Cut her into pieces and then throw her in some river. **** will all flow far away.

Jagmati Sangwan , President of  The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), (the Haryana wing), that has been fighting “honor killings” says:

Khaps can tell a married couple with a two-year-old baby that their marriage has violated the gotra (marriage) laws and they must now tie rakhis and become siblings. If the couples don’t comply, their families are ostracised. This was common in Haryana. Families got thrown out of the village, fined for Rs 21,000, hit with shoes, tonsured and urinated upon. Even against these, there should be laws. There are layers to the problem. There are many cases involving adolescent girls. There is nothing to help them. But if they ever slip up or the families even suspect anything, they’re killed.

What is the real reason for this kind of tyrannical power that communities assume about justice and their right to kill individuals?

It appears the real reason is to uphold power hierarchies of gender, class, religion and caste.   This is a an unscrupulous means of retaining power by those in positions of power!  The murdered victims almost always are the individuals ranked lower in society — girls and women, and men from the lower castes or economic classes.  Jagmati explains:

In that age-bracket, girls, not boys, are killed regularly. Schoolteachers in our group report disappearance of students. Questioned, families say things like the girl had stomach ache and died. There’s such strong acceptance of these actions that no one complains.

In case of inter-caste marriages, if the boy is from a lower caste and landless, both will be killed. This isn’t an honour issue at all. We have a hierarchical society and its leaders want the divisions to remain. If the youth exercise their right to choose their partners, it has the potential to destroy caste structures.  That’s the real threat; the cause of the murders. Those who understand these implications have, till now, controlled all social and economic structures and resources. Now they are threatened and political outfits depend on them for votes. They don’t want that kids use this right to ‘choice marriage’ because social and economic structures will collapse.

How does the other side, the communities that have condoned “honor” killings think?  What do they think of people who kill for “honor”?  Do they see them as criminals?  Do they see the murdered girls as victims? Would they kill someone in their own family for the sake of “honor” ?

Below is a video by Neha Sehgal of Wave India (a digital platform where Indian women explore issues through video blogs), in which she interviews villagers to get their perspectives on the practice of “honor killings”.


Lars-Gunnar Svärd  is a systems analyst, a world traveler and an award winning photographer.  He is a founding member of The 50 Million Missing Campaign and a campaign administrator.  To see more of his works, visit his website at Images of The World.

© The 50 Million Missing Campaign. All Rights Reserved. Please see our copyright notice.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. Lorie Steinitz permalink
    March 13, 2011 4:40 pm

    its outrageous that those people get away with that .wheres the honour in honour killing? there is none

    • emery permalink
      January 3, 2012 11:21 pm

      i use to think that honour killings were a Muslim thing. while it is true that Muslims do it to i now know better. the more i learn about Hinduism the less i like it.

  2. emery permalink
    January 11, 2012 12:09 am

    I believe those involved in honor killings should be charged with terrorism! i don’t know what the legal definition of terrorism is in India but the FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” the point of honor killings is not just to “restore family honor” its also to scare other young people especially women so much that they don’t fall in love or refuse arranged marriages. this use of violence to intimidate and coerce a segment of the population is terrorism and should be dealt with as such.

    • ajay permalink
      November 29, 2012 11:30 pm

      why charged as terrorism i thing this is the last way to protect our culture there is no harm in the honor killing. indian custom is not give parmission to marry brother and sister

    • December 2, 2012 12:31 pm

      The fact that same ‘gotra’ makes a man and woman — brother and sister is what some people argue but the Supreme court has disputed based on scietific evidence. However, assume that we take your word that they are brother and sister. Then by law that is illegal. However, the law in India still does not allow the community and family to kill the people!! That is a crime under Indian law. Don’t like it — well, don’t accept it. Throw them out of your community. Disown them. The law cannot stop you from doing that.

  3. DebDub permalink
    February 25, 2012 4:01 pm

    Religion is just an excuse – Christians, Hindus, Muslims… does not matter. Honor killings exist and the blame is as much of the woman who is allowing herself to be manipulated by the statement “what will people say?”, as it is of the society.
    Why is it that we females are considered disposable? Unfortunately it is the doings of another woman, who received the same treatment herself. Mother-in-law. A woman in power who’d rather manipulate and make situations difficult for her daughter-in-law than take her side and stand as a pillar of support. Thats how unfortunate it is… as if dealing with men is not difficult enough… We women make situations more difficult for another woman.

  4. August 25, 2013 3:11 pm

    Please!! Outside world and communities/ people, with Power!…Do something URGENT about this situation and so-called “customs” in India!!!!Please save innocent people from this heart-ache and agony!!…..

  5. Wendy permalink
    August 28, 2013 1:53 am

    It makes me sick to my stomache,If they don’t do something soon ,you couldn’t blame the women forming armies and fighting back.


  1. “Ehrenmorde” : Eine Analyse | “50 Million Missing” - 50 Millionen verschwunden
  2. «Les Crimes d’Honneur» : Une Analyse | The 50 Million Missing Campaign: Les 50 Millions Manquantes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: