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Human Rights Watch seeks law against honour killings

New Delhi, July 19 (Calcutta Tube) A global human rights organisation Monday appealed to the central government to enact strict laws to check honour killings and ensure prosecution of those involved in caste-based violence.

The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said murders to protect the ‘honour’ of a family or a community have increased in the recent months in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. This religion-based, caste-based violence should be stopped by taking stern action against local leaders who endorse it.

‘Officials who fail to condemn village council edicts that end in murder are effectively endorsing murder. Politicians and police need to send these councils a strong message to stop issuing edicts on marriages,’ said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for HRW).

Ganguly said there were no official figures on honour killings because they often go unreported or passed off as suicide or natural deaths by the family members involved.

‘A recent independent study found that at least 900 such murders occur every year in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh alone. There are no estimates of other injuries, unlawful confinement or forced marriages suffered by women and girls, or by couples, in the name of honour,’ she said.

Calling for stringent punishment for people behind the menace, Ganguly said: ‘Murder is murder, and customary sentiment should not prevail over basic rights and the laws of the land.’

‘The Indian government by strengthening its laws should make community leaders liable for punishment if their edicts incite so-called honour killings,’ she added.

The NGO demanded that the government should, through public campaigns and the media, promote the right of individuals of legally marriageable age to marry persons of their choice.

The government should instruct police to protect those in consensual relationships who fear family or community reprisals.

‘Police should be held accountable when they turn a blind eye and fail to investigate alleged honour crimes. The unholy nexus between caste, politics and impunity should be broken,’ Ganguly said.

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