Where’s the honour in such killings

Kevin Joseph

The horrific death of a young man, Kevin Joseph, who was abducted by the brother of the woman he had married a few days ago, has rocked Kerala. It is not known whether Kevin was killed by the woman’s brother and his associates or died falling into a river after escaping from them. But it only amounts to murder, driven by a false sense of honour. Kevin was a Dalit Christian and the woman is from a Roman Catholic family that enjoys a higher social and economic status. Kerala has seen four known honour killings in the last four years. Only a few weeks ago a man from a backward community killed his daughter for marrying a Dalit. There are many other cases of beating up and torture or threats and intimidation of men and women from different social and economic backgrounds who fall in love or get married. 

What is disturbing is that honour crimes are increasing even in states like Kerala, which boasts of high educational achievements and has a history of social reform movements. They were not very common and the decisions and actions of couples from different backgrounds did not have to face as much open hostility and violence as they do today. But conservatism and casteist attitudes have lurked just below the surface. A wrong sense of family prestige and honour is placed above the sovereign rights of individuals. This has come with a tendency to return to a false notion of tradition and is seen also in matters other than that related to marital decisions. This amounts to a denial of the progressive values acquired through education and sought to be established through social and individual struggles for many decades as well as the rights we have given ourselves under the Constitution. It is a regression to a past that should only be forgotten. What is true of Kerala is true of other states, too. 

These attitudes challenge the rule of law and violate the rights of citizens and the laws that protect these rights. What is again a matter of concern is that the machinery of the State which should protect such rights is involved in their violation. Kevin’s wife complained to the police about his abduction, but the police did not act for many hours and, worse, were in touch with the abductors. That makes the police complicit in the crime. There is also an unfortunate trend to politicise such crimes and to justify the violation of individual rights, especially those of women. Courts have always supported the individual’s rights and their freedom of choice. The bigger responsibility of protecting them rests with the State, its institutions and the wider society. 

 

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Where’s the honour in such killings

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