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India Proposes New Law To Combat Honour Killings

Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
India proposes new law to combat honour killings

Agence France-Presse - August 5, 2010 11:02 AM

NEW DELHI - India's home minister proposed Thursday a bill to provide specific, severe penalties to curb honour killings, saying they brought "dishonour" to India as a secular, modern democracy.

India has witnessed a recent upsurge in the number of reported honour killings, which mainly involve young couples who marry outside their caste and are killed by relatives to protect the family's reputation and pride.

"These cases bring dishonour to the families, the community and the country," Home Minister P. Chidambaram told parliament.

He said he hoped to table a bill in the current session, amending existing legislation to specifically target honour killings and providing for penalties of "greater severity."

While the killings are usually carried out by direct family members, they are often condoned — or even ordered — by councils of village elders, a practice the new bill is expected to criminalise as being an accessory to murder.

"Whoever is the cause of the crime, an individual or a collective, must be punished," Chidambaram said.

"We are living in the 21st century and there is a need to amend the current law and the law must reflect what the 21st century requires," he said.

"We have to look ahead and build a society that is based on secular values and enlightened views."

There are no official figures on honour killings, although a recent independent study suggested that as many as 900 were being committed every year in the northern states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Many go unreported with police and local politicians turning a blind eye to what some see as an acceptable form of traditional justice.

"If people feel that they are not accountable, I think they are wrong," Chidambaram said. "States must register police complaints and prosecute the guilty."

The speaker of the lower house, Meira Kumar — the first woman to hold the post — welcomed the proposed bill.

"Young people are getting killed and killed by the people who should love and protect them, this is a de-humanising process," she told the house.

© Copyright (c) AFP


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