As horrific as honor killings is and how the discrimination of the female in India follows her her entire life, the good news is this is becoming newsworthy in India. We in the west should play our part but India attitudes and their actions are essential to changing a cultural mindset that views women as a liability and “expendable” to one that values their true God-given worth.
Great job Mr. Tripathi!
The Times of India
Ashish Tripathi, 08 July 2010, 01:28 PM IST
“Honour killings” or horror killings — call them by any name, they are just one of many crimes born out of unholy traditions which survive on the blood of the innocent. Ironically, any law, no matter how severe it is, will be able to check these crimes. The reason: MINDSET. Cemented over the centuries by the feudal and patriarchal set-up, changing the mindset of the population today is tougher than the toughest thing is the world. A law might ban khap panchayats or at the most make “honour killing”, a non-bailable offence punishable with death penalty. But “honour killing” will continue to prevail till we convince people, be it the illiterate village folk or the highly educated city dwellers, that what they are doing is a sin and an immoral act.
Let me illustrate my argument with some examples: Slavery was abolished in America in 1865 and it took over 150 years for Americans to change the mindset and elect a black president. And cases of racial discrimination are still reported. Back home, 60 years after untouchability was abolished, the ill still exists. Dalit suppression continues despite a strict law and despite dalits holding key positions in government. Misuse of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is also rampant but studies reveal that atrocities on dalits have increased — women are raped and paraded naked, men assaulted and killed, their houses burnt, their children denied education. All for breaking the code imposed for ages by the brahminical order.
Dowry Prohibition Act was passed in 1961 but the evil continues to be part of our social customs. People argue that anti-dowry act is the most misused law but it is also true that women are dying or being killed because of dowry even today. As per National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 6,787 dowry death cases were registered in 2005, 7,618 in 2006, 75,930 in 2007 and 8,172 in 2008. It’s an open secret that dowry is part of over 95% of the marriages taking place today. Dowry is illegal but people don’t consider it immoral. We are groomed in a manner that giving and taking dowry is considered to be a status symbol. As one moves up the ladder from law enforcer to law maker — clerk/constable, inspector, IPS, IAS, MBA, MP — the cost of the groom increases.
Dowry is also one of the major factors behind corruption in government system. After globalisation, our desires and greed has increased with the increase in availability of products in the market. Accordingly, the amount of dowry has also increased. Now a groom with Rs 15,000 plus salary demands a car instead of a motorcycle. Those who cannot afford resort to female feticide or abandon the girl child. Further, despite a law prohibiting child marriage, a Unicef report says that over 47% girls (27% in urban and 56% in rural) in India are being married before the legal age of 18 years, leading to high maternal and neonatal mortality rate. One of the main reasons parents in rural areas marry their daughters at the early age (often misfit match) is dowry.
Further, the Domestic Violence Act 2005 was brought to protect women in the family from mental and physical violence but it has failed to make any impact. Studies reveal that over 95% of women don’t report domestic violence but still 81,344 domestic violence cases were registered in 2008 and 75,930 in 2007 in courts. The PCPNDT ACT prohibits female feticide but every year over one million girls are being killed before taking birth. The law has neither been able to deter people nor restrain doctors from indulging in the heinous crime. Killing the girl child before birth has today taken the shape of a multi-crore industry in states like Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, where the child sex ratio has at many places has gone down below 750.
Clearly, many things made illegal by the law are considered morally correct by society. the education system has also failed in inculcating moral values, be it rural or urban population. “Honour killing” also have a gender angle. Most killings are committed by the girl’s family while the boy’s family reconciles with “ladka hai sub chalta hai”, a girl carries the burden of family honour. If she elopes, her family is labelled to be lacking right “samskars”, hence unfit for “roti aur beti ka rishta”. For the girl’s family, killing becomes necessary for redemption. Besides killings, thousands…perhaps lakhs of girls are forced to marry against their wishes. Matrimonial columns show that the most families, even highly educated ones, prefer same-caste marriages. The youngsters have no freedom of choice.
The only solution is Gandhi’s satyagraha. While politicians of this age are avoiding comment on the issue out of fear of losing their vote bank, Gandhi in Harijan’s September 15, 1946, edition had written “It is wholly wrong of parents to force marriage on their daughters. It is also wrong to keep their daughters unfit for earning their living. No father has a right to turn a daughter out on to the streets for refusal to marry.” We need satyagraha to prick the conscience of the people by assertion of truth with firmness. Rather than coercing them into submission, the killers of their daughters and sons will have to be convinced that what they are doing is evil and not honourable. We need to defeat the evil through moral force and not just a law to punish the evil-doer.
On the dowry system, Bapu wrote in Young India on June 21, 1929, “Marriage must cease to be a matter of arrangement made by parents for money. The system is intimately connected with caste. So long as the choice is restricted to a few hundred young men or young women of a particular caste, dowry will persist. We will have to break the bonds of caste if the evil is to be eradicated. Any young man who takes dowry discredits his education, his country and dishonours womanhood… men who soil their fingers with such ill-gotten gold should be ex-communicated from society. Parents of girls should cease to be dazzled by English degrees and should not hesitate to travel outside their little castes and provinces to secure true gallant young men for their daughters…”
Today we need firm resolute, patience (reforms will not be overnight) and all-round sustained effort from spiritual leaders, social activists, police, state and district administration, journalists, teachers, lawyers, students, teachers and sane voices from among the community itself and above all a strong political will. Everyone of us will have to contribute in whatever way we think is feasible. We need to explain to the “killers” that same gotra is irrelevant in view of the fact that source of all creation in this universe is one almighty God. Economically, dowry will have no place in marriages based on right to choice. Those in opposition also need to be told that “honour killing” is no solution. Had it been, love marriages would have stopped after the first such killing.
Every counter argument will have to be supported with citations from folklore, mythology and religious texts. For example: Haryana is the land where the Vedic civilisation took birth and flourished. The civilisation gave right to “swyamwar” to the girls. In this land the the epic war of the Mahabharata took place. The discourse given by Lord Krishna to Pandav prince Arjuna before the war, known as the Bhagwad Gita, has inspired millions the world over. In the Gita, the lord has stressed the need of purity of soul and not purity of clan. Rukmini, princes of Vidharbha, wanted to marry Krishna. But when her marriage was fixed with another prince, she called Krishna for help. Krishana “eloped” with Rukmini to honour a woman’s right to choose her life partner.
The entire campaign would have to be conducted in a polite and respectful manner giving full opportunity to those in opposition to put forward their view. Anything imposed would only invite backlash. And above all, the couples will have to adopt satyagraha and be ready for sacrifice in the larger interest of the coming generations. Rather than eloping to get married, they will have to take a firm stand — they will not leave family but at the same time will remain unmarried till allowed to marry the person of their choice. And, the most important part is that all of us who want to eradicate the evil, as a first step towards the satyagraha, will all have to take a vow that neither will we indulge in any of the above-mentioned ills, nor allow anyone in our families to do so.