‘Honour’ killings in India


by Rumbold
25th March, 2011 at 9:50 am    

Ratna Raman, an academic in India, writes powerfully on ‘honour’-based violence in India. The piece is excellent, and there isn’t much more to add to it. Just read it:

Something is rotten in the fabric of our country. Something continues to dog and intimidate and brutalise young women. It injures men too in the attempt to settle scores relentlessly and lethally, notching points on behalf of insularity and barbarism and gratuitous gender cruelty. In 2000 the newspapers carried reports that Bibi Jagir Kaur, a Shiromani Akhali Dal councillor in Punjab, had allegedly abducted her daughter Harpreet, subjected her to an abortion, given her an overdose of pills and consigned her to the flames. This was because the young woman in question had married in secret while studying at a medical college. To date no one has been punished and witnesses in the face of muscle and money power have now turned hostile. What exactly was the crime these two young women had committed? What was the basis of their family’s behaviour? How could one even hope to understand this vicious and vitiating practice?

On paper we won our independence in 1947. Our constitution extends the fundamental right to self-expression even to women. Yet, everywhere around us despite the cries of a liberal plural space what we see is the buttressing and endorsement of hegemonic feudal stereotypes.

(Hat-tip: KJB)


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  1. Kismet Hardy — on 25th March, 2011 at 10:25 am  

    I think it’s time to stop using the word honour, even if it is in quotations. The NLP therein continues to suggest it’s somehow associated with an honourable, if questionable, deed. It’s straight-forward sadism, no more no less

  2. Kismet Hardy — on 25th March, 2011 at 10:28 am  

    PS. Slightly off-topic and continent, but jesus wept…

    http://allafrica.com/stories/201103151079.html

  3. KJB — on 25th March, 2011 at 11:28 am  

    Thanks for flagging this piece up, Rumbold – I was hoping you would as it is so clear, concise and heartbreaking.

  4. Awakening Tempest — on 25th March, 2011 at 11:30 am  

    Unfortunately the article is brutal but correct and exposes the reality of how power can be abused. Recently – since the evolution of the internet and the sharing of information these acts against humanity and basic human rights and freedom have been exposed. The reality is more bleak and I believe we are just scratching the surface of the problem.

  5. damon — on 25th March, 2011 at 3:15 pm  

    Watching ”My Big Fat Fake Wedding” on Panorama last night, it would seem this rot is firmly entrenched here too. Needs, corruption, power, exploitation, money … this is what it leads too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJTm-ltZ74Y

  6. Niels Christensen — on 26th March, 2011 at 8:56 am  

    @Damon
    And another thing. This is of course a disregard of public service, laws and rules. One of the really strong elements in western europe is the respect for our institutions.
    If you base your stay and relationship with the society by cheating these institutions, then ?

  7. damon — on 26th March, 2011 at 12:18 pm  

    I don’t mean to put a downer on threads like this … but really, what’s their point? We really can’t do anything about this. India is too big a country, going through such a rapid change.

    Watching last night’s Channel 4 Unreported World programme about attitudes to leprosy in India just highlighted this.

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/episode-guide/series-2011/episode-1

    Have they made the Bollywood film about a poor leper girl who marries the handsome prince yet?
    It would be a start.

  8. douglas clark — on 27th March, 2011 at 9:58 am  

    damon @ 7,

    It is, perhaps, about giving a fuck?

  9. douglas clark — on 27th March, 2011 at 10:13 am  

    which is why I can agree with Rumbold.

    He cares

    All of the time. He and I disagree on so much, but he is the most honest person around here about women being abused.

    Seems to me.

  10. damon — on 27th March, 2011 at 12:00 pm  

    I ‘care’ too Douglas. Otherwise I wouldn’t watch programmes like Unreported World.

    Well that, and hoping that the lovely Ramita Navai might be doing the reporting.
    I care about all sorts of things. But with some things very little can be done about … which I’m sure a lot of people recognise.
    Of course being informed about what goes on is important, and doing what you can is obviously the right thing to do. But until a country changes fundamentally away from allowing barbaric things to go on right under people’s noses – like the attitudes to lepars, honor violence or the killing of female children, which in one area of Tamil Nadu I read about, was two thirds of female children born in a particular government hospital … as long as people are turning a blind eye to this on an industrial scale, there’s not much concerned people in the UK can do.

    What are people’s concerns and priorities in India is what would interest me. From knowing some Indian nationals working in England, they don’t seem to worry about the bigger issues of poverty and injustice in their country that much. Which is quite understandable too when there’s not much they can do as individuals to change things. So they just get on with their own lives. And having a career in England, owning cars and computers and being very modern, when they go back to India on family visits, they are automaticaly in the top 10% of the class divide and are almost as divorced from the reality of the poorest people living on a couple of pounds a day as I, as a white foriegner would be there.

  11. douglas clark — on 27th March, 2011 at 12:32 pm  

    damon,

    As you probably know, I quite like you. But I admire what Rumbold stands for a wee bit more than that.

    You say:

    And having a career in England, owning cars and computers and being very modern, when they go back to India on family visits, they are automaticaly in the top 10% of the class divide and are almost as divorced from the reality of the poorest people living on a couple of pounds a day as I, as a white foriegner would be there.

    Well, these are, perhaps, the sort of people that Rumbold is attempting to energise. He has a voice on Pickled Politics, one that is pretty well respected. And him being a white dude and all.

    Frankly I disagree with him a lot of the time, but on this, not at all.

    He is right to highlight this, and you are wrong to pretend that what he says on this subject doesn’t matter.

    ’cause one less death justifies every last post by him on here.

    Rumbold maybe can’t change the world. But he is pointing in the right direction.

    It is a tad odd that I find myself standing behind a libertarian, but I do. And, on this, I always will.

    He is right and you are wrong. And I hope, on this, he effects the world. Even by one inch.

    Absolutely.

  12. damon — on 27th March, 2011 at 1:09 pm  

    Er, Douglas? I’m not having a go at what Rumbold said. This is a discussion forum where the object is to discuss things isn’t it? Being a site that has a focus on south Asia, these subjects will surely come up regularly. My point is that India will change when it’s ready and there’s not much we can do about it here.
    When they’re having marches like yesterday’s in London about important social issues there.
    While of course there’s nothing wrong with being informed about such issues, and making any small difference you can.

  13. Rumbold — on 27th March, 2011 at 1:14 pm  

    Very kind of you to say so Douglas.

  14. douglas clark — on 27th March, 2011 at 1:23 pm  

    damon @,12,

    You were having a go at Rumbold. You had this to say:

    I don’t mean to put a downer on threads like this … but really, what’s their point? We really can’t do anything about this. India is too big a country, going through such a rapid change.

    Watching last night’s Channel 4 Unreported World programme about attitudes to leprosy in India just highlighted this.

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/episode-guide/series-2011/episode-1

    Have they made the Bollywood film about a poor leper girl who marries the handsome prince yet?
    It would be a start.

    It was neither Rumbold nor I that came across as a complete utter tit there, was it?

    I admire what Rumbold has to say on some things. Indeed, I quite like what you have to say on other things. But when you are talking out of your arse as you are here, I beg to differ.

  15. douglas clark — on 27th March, 2011 at 1:46 pm  

    Rumbold @ 13,

    Cheers.

    But you know I wouldn’t lie about you, one way or the other.

    What I had to say is what I know to be the truth about you.

    On this you are a diamond geezer :-)

    When your brain is disengaged, then I reserve the right to correct you. And when mine is disengaged, feel free to correct me too. It seems to me that you and I get along fine on that basis.

    On this subject, neither you nor I are wrong. It is rubbish to suggest otherwise.

  16. damon — on 27th March, 2011 at 1:47 pm  

    Oh give over Douglas. Go out and walk the dog or something. ;)
    I’m in a Starbucks right now. It has a very nice and sunday afternoon liberal atmosphere. What can the people in here do about what goes on in India? Not much.
    That’s not having a go at anyone. It’s more asking the question: ”what can be done in a place like India to change social attitudes that are so entrenced that people just give up in the face of them and get on with their own lives?”

    I’m now going to read up on what’s the current situation in Syria. I can’t have any effect on what happens there, but still, want to inform myself about it some more. I went there once and became friendly with a couple of young guys in the town of Latakia, which was on the news last night.

  17. Dr Paul — on 27th March, 2011 at 6:17 pm  

    I wonder if these types of attacks are getting worse, or if it is case of their getting more publicity.

    I wonder if social development of India has led to a situation in which the number of young people who wish to live their lives by modern norms and wish to choose their partners on the basis of mutual attraction has reached a point where the conservative types who traditionally have seen their offspring as counters in property deals, etc, feel increasingly threatened, and wreak their revenge against the modern world through these attacks.

    Maybe, because relationships based upon attraction cut across their authority in such a sharp manner, the conservatives see them as a personal slight against both their parental authority and the idea of parental authority in general. Hitting out at the ‘disobedient’ son and (especially) daughter, subjecting them to really nasty physical and mental abuse and often a very painful death, makes me feel that there is a very deep wish not merely to hurt but to humiliate, and to teach a lesson to anyone thinking of doing the same. I’m reminded of the cruel, humiliating treatment of a gang member who transgresses the gang’s rules and gets caught.

    I don’t think that this is a problem that is going to go away. Indeed, the lop-sided development of India, where old customs and the conditions that produce them sit uncomfortably alongside modern norms, and where cultural norms lag behind social changes, means that such awful things will continue to occur. I hope that progressively-minded people will give support to people wishing to break away from peasant customs and live a modern life, although what practical support can be given from, in my case, Britain, I don’t know.

  18. Kismet Hardy — on 28th March, 2011 at 12:16 pm  

    Damon there are shedloads of cinderella stories in Bollywood. The ones starring Smita Patil, Sharmilla Tagore et al were frequently about dark-skiined poor women getting the rich, fair-skinned man in the end and having rich, fair-skinned children… :-)

  19. damon — on 28th March, 2011 at 5:20 pm  

    @18, I bet there are Kismet. I do wonder where ”Civil Society” is though in India. That was my point really. And Dr Paul takes what I was trying to say a bit further. It’s the unequal development which makes a person who is doing better than average just grateful for that (as far as I can see it). So while young people in universities in the west will join altruistic movements like UKuncut etc, I wonder if there is the equivalent kind of societal development in a place as vast and complex as India.
    I haven’t been there for ten years now, but was in Malaysia for a few months a year ago, and there I saw very little evidence of a liberal public consciousness.

    So much so, that this mural on the wall of Pudu prison, declaring that death was the punishment for drug trafficking, has been left to get old and fade, even though thousands of people walk past it every day as they get out at a nearby railway station.

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_oVvCYxtlKQo/SyarZnJKZyI/AAAAAAAABMg/C8OGMa9TVsc/s400/PuduMural1.JPG

    That wouldn’t last a week in a western country, as there would be some ”direct action” against it.
    So I’m wondering if India is similar that way.
    Public apathy to big social issues.

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