A matter of honour

There are many definitions to the word honour:  high respect; great esteemthe quality of knowing and doing what is morally right and so on. The juxtaposition of the words honour and killing is an aberration as to my mind, there is no honour in killing whatever the circumstances. However honour killing has also a dictionary definition: the killing of a relative, who is perceived to have brought dishonour on the family. The reality is that the relative is always a girl or a woman. This is patriarchy at its best. I do not know who or why someone decided that the honour of the family lay on the fragile shoulders of women and should she deviate then her won blood and flesh had the right to kill her.

A gruesome incident occurred some days ago just 80 km from the glitz and glamour of our capital city. A young girl who fell in love with the boy 'next door' was lynched and murdered and her friend beheaded by her own parents. Their crime was falling in love within the clan, a social taboo for people from this part of the planet. And clan is so largely defined that one would lose one's way trying to find the blood line. The young couple had fallen in love something that is natural and often unforeseen. They knew that their families would not approve so they eloped to Delhi hoping I presume to get married. However the girl's family called them back under false pretences and killed them in the most barbaric way. This was no on the spur killing in a fit of anger, this was premeditated. The punishment and execution were meted in public and the boy's headless body left for all to see! This happened in 2013 and not in some medieval time. The sad reality is that this happens more often than we can imagine. The power of village kangaroo courts is higher than the highest court of law. The father, mother and uncle of the girl have been arrested but they show no remorse. In their book honour is greater than the life of the child you brought into this world.

I think that of all the ills of a patriarchal system the one that has to be denounced and condemned is the one that makes a girl the repository of a family's honour. Maybe it is because God gave us the child bearing burden thus making us most vulnerable. I guess a man can sow many seeds and get away with it. If a son strays, it is taken as he being macho or just a boy. And any way is it not us women that are supposed to entice poor innocent lads by the way we dress, look, walk etc. How does a one year old do that is hard to imagine. Maybe diapers are sexy!

In a country where women are worshipped by the very men who kill their daughters and where people a campaign against violence against women shows bruised Goddesses, I am at a loss to comprehend what goes into the minds of parents when they commit such brutal acts against their own blood and flesh. And what makes it worse is that these are not committed in fits of rage but planned and executed with precision in public. What honour there is in killing your own child.

What is scary is that this practice is accepted by society in these areas where kangaroo courts hold such power and the law of the land comes a poor second. True some have been arrested, but those in their clan they are heroes who had the guts to murder their own in the name of misplaced honour. Local politicians are against having a different and harsher punishment for honour killings.

Local politicians who want to retain their seats defend such crimes. The Chief Minister of the state in question even went on to say that the (in)famous khap panchayats had no role in this gruesome killings. In India capital punishment is meted out to what is called 'rarest of the rare' crimes. Beating your won child to death and decapitating the one she loved is in my book the rarest of the rare. But justice has many loopholes and protracted trials before justice is meted out. It is far from being the deterrent needed for such barbaric acts.

Laws against social aberrations, or efforts to change mores and tradition, will be slow to take off. Education is the only way out and that will take time. If a belief that you can kill your child if she dares to marry in the same clan, is so deeply ingrained that murdering your own child is acceptable, then this is a long battle that cannot be won with a few reactions or shouting matches in TV debates. This is the pinnacle of a patriarchal society where women have no voice. Remember these are people who come up with ludicrous explanations for these deviations: eating chowmein, or banning porn sites.

To be able to kill your own child needs very strong beliefs. So what we are up against is something deeply rooted in the minds and psyche of these parents. When our children fall in love with someone we do not find 'acceptable', we reason with the child or just give in as to us our child's happiness is far more important than traditions that seem obsolete and jaded. For us it is happiness against social acceptability and happiness wins hands down.

Many more young couples are going to face the wrath of their families if they 'dare' to love someone from their clan before we can find a way to prove the inanity of such customs. The clan or gotra issue is passé. Brahman are also supposed not to marry within their clan, but descendants we owe alliance to are the 12 rishis who lived eons of years ago. Their is no real bloodline, just some social diktats made by priests for reasons they know best. I think an AIDS blood test before marriage is a more sensible idea!