More than 1,000 young people in India are done to death every year owing to 'Honour Killings' linked to forced marriages and the country needs to introduce stringent legislation to deal firmly with the heinous crime.
Participating in a three-day International Child Abduction, Relocation and Forced Marriages Conference organised by the London Metropolitan University, Chandigarh-based legal experts, Anil Malhotra and his brother Ranjit Malhotra in a joint paper said: "Forced marriages and honour killings are often intertwined. Marriage can be forced to save honour, and women can be murdered for rejecting a forced marriage and marrying a partner of their own choice who is not acceptable for the family of the girl. In traditional societies, honour killings are basically 'justified' as a sanction for 'dishonourable' behaviour."
They said the Ministries of Home Affairs and the Law and Justice are preparing to amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to define the act of "honour killing". The demand for such a law was made repeatedly with the objective of stamping out this social evil. "The aim is to provide for deterrent punishment for caste and community panchayats which should be booked for aiding and abetting such killings and as accomplices to the murder," they said.
They pointed out that the Supreme Court of India, concerned over the spate of recent 'Honour Killings' has asked the Centre and eight State Governments to submit reports on the steps being taken to prevent this barbaric practice. The Court's decision, which came in the wake of a petition filed by an NGO that seeks a broad and comprehensive strategy to combat the 'Honour Crimes' could be just what is required to make those in power come down hard against those responsible for the crimes.
The Malhotra brothers were the only representatives from India at the Conference attended by International Family Law Experts from all over the world. Prominent among those who attended the Conference were Lady Brenda Hale, Judge, Supreme Court of U.K., Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Thorpe, Head of International Family Justice, U.K., Mr. Justice Peter Singer from Royal Justice Court of U.K., Hon'ble Adel Omar Sherif, Judge Supreme Court Constitutional Court Egypt, Prof. Julia Sloth-Neilsen, University of Western Cape, South Africa, Mr. Justice John Faulks, Deputy Chief Justice, Family Court of Australia, Judge Mary O'Dwyer, Family Court, New Zealand, Judge Peck Cheng Tan, Singapore, Justice Ben Stephens, High Court of Northern Ireland, Professor William Duncan, Deputy Secretary General, Hague Conference on Private International Law, Professor Maarit Jantera-Jareborg, Professor of Private International Law with International Civil Procedure, Uppsala University, Sweden, Dr. Judy Cashmore, Associate Professor of Law, University of Sydney, Professor Linda Silberman, Martin Lipton Professor of Law, New York University and Justice Peter Boshier, Principal Family Court Judge, New Zealand.
Noting that the issue has acquired alarming proportions in India and abroad, Anil and Ranjit Malhotra said while the Indian Government is still mulling a harsh penal law to penalize 'Honour killings', the UK has made forced marriages a civil liability under The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, 2007.
"Be it forced marriages or Honour killings, the social dimensions and implications are the same. The larger issue is their resolution. Whether it is societal or legal, is a question which will baffle legal experts, legislators and the people who practice these heinous Crimes," they said.
Comparing the legal framework adopted by various countries so as to effectively combat the problem of forced marriages, Ranjit Malhotra, said "It is the State's and the society's responsibility to protect the human rights of its young citizens, to avoid forced marriages, to create possibilities and opportunities for the people concerned to break free and to find protection, support and aid. Education of the young women and men as well as their parents is just as much necessary as a broad concept to empower the young people concerned with the problem."