Violence against women’s autonomy, in all matters and especially in matters of sexuality and marriage, is one of India’s most widespread and tenacious forms of gender violence. Honor killing is one of its examples. The light form of honor killing is to assault, threaten, and sometimes even use violence to stifle the choice of the person. It is to be seen that ‘honor killings’ have a fundamentally patriarchal context. Unequal power relations, in the context of honor manifest by holding male members of the family, society, or community as its custodian, who become purveyors of punishment for transgressions. On the other hand, the female members are to carry the burden of this honor at the cost of their self, freedom, agency, and even life. This can present itself in forms of various controls over a woman’s behavior, sexuality, and marriage and at worst honor killings in case of perceived lapses.
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A Similar patriarchal incident happened in Amritsar, where a man chained her elder sister, who wanted to marry a person from her locality. However, her brother did not want her to marry him. So, he chained her to the bed.
Facts in Brief:
- In Amritsar, a 36-year-old woman confined in her house by being chained to a bed to prevent her from solemnizing love marriage.
- The woman was in a relationship with a man of her locality for the last few years, but her family members, especially her younger brother, were opposed to the affair.
- The police rescued her after they were informed about the confinement by members of the Anti-Crime and Animal Protection Association, alleging violation of her human rights.
- A case was registered against her younger brother under Sections 343 (wrongful confinement for three days or more) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at the Cantonment police station.
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Legal Stand Point:
- Wrongful confinement for three or more days.—Who ever wrongfully confines any person for three days, or more, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
- Punishment for criminal intimidation.—Whoever commits, the offence of criminal intimidation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both; If threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, etc.—And if the threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, or to cause the destruction of any property by fire, or to cause an offence punishable with death or 1[imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or to impute, unchastity to a woman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.
- Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt.— Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
- Criminal force.—Whoever intentionally uses force to any person, without that person’s consent, in order to the committing of any offence, or intending by the use of such force to cause, or knowing it to be likely that by the use of such force he will cause injury, fear or annoyance to the person to whom the force is used, is said to use criminal force to that other.
In Lata Singh v. State of U.P.,(2006) 5 SCC 475, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that a major girl is free to marry anyone she likes or live with anyone she likes.
In Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, (2018) 7 SCC 192), the Supreme Court held that “the human rights of a daughter, brother, sister or son are not mortgaged to the so-called or so-understood honor of the family or clan or the collective.” The judgment upholds choice and consent of adults for marriages and clarifies that the consent of family is not needed. It is contextualised with inalienable right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, and its vital corollary, the right to choose and the right to live with dignity.
In Bhagwan Dass v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2011) 6 SCC 39, the Supreme Court observed that it has been stated that many people feel that they are dishonoured by the behavior of the young man/woman who is related to them or belongs to their caste simply because he/she is marrying against their wish or having an affair with someone, and hence they take the law into their own hands and kill or physically assault such person or commit some other atrocities which is wholly illegal. Regard being had to the expression of unhappiness with the behaviour of a daughter or other person, the Court observed that the maximum a person can do is to cut off social relations with her/him, but he cannot take the law into his own hands by committing violence or giving threats of violence.
In Asha Ranjan v. State of Bihar and others, (2017) 4 SCC 397theCourt, in a different context, noted:-“choice of woman in choosing her partner in life is a legitimate constitutional right. It is founded on individual choice that is recognised in the Constitution under Article 19, and such aright is not expected to succumb to the concept of “class honor” or “group thinking. It is because the sense of class honor has no legitimacy even if the collective practises it under some kind of notion”.
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The question that comes for consideration is whether the elders of the family or clan can ever be allowed to give a verdict guided by some notion of traditions and eliminate the life of the young who have exercised their choice to get married against the wishes of their elders or contrary to the customary practice of the clan. The answer has to be an emphatic, “No.” It is because the assertion of choice is an integrable facet of liberty and dignity, which is protected by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Class honor,howsoever perceived, cannot stifle the choice of an individual which he or she is entitled to enjoy under our Constitution. Such groups/individuals cannot be allowed to become a law unto themselves. Any such act, which may be socially sanctioned, is wholly illegal, as evident from the provisions mentioned above of IPC and spate of judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. A major girl is free to marry anyone she likes or live with anyone she likes. Any attempt to threaten her or confining her so that she cannot exercise her choice is illegal.
Problems like this emanate from narrow mindedness. Thus, it requires determination to take pre-emptive, protective, and corrective measures whenever any individual case comes to notice or is highlighted. The Hon’ble Supreme Court suggested some measures to counter such crimes in the Shakti Vahini case. The Hon’ble judges, in that case, urged for proactive and affirmative action from the local administration that should give logistical support for solemnizing love marriage. Some punitive measures include the Constitution of a specialized cell with a 24-hour helpline to deal with cases of threat and to register complaints. Another direction included hearing on a day-to-day basis, and conclusion within six months of cases of honor killing.
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For case specific advice, please contact Punjab Haryana High Court Best/Expert Lawyers Advocates for Love Marriage Registration/Protection, Chandigarh Panchkula Mohali. Zirakpur Kharar Derabassi
This post is written by Gourav Kathuria
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