The death of 28-year-old Ranjeeta Sharma was not a case of ‘Honour Killing.’
Neither was the murder of 24-year-old Gulshad Banu Hussein in 2004 and Chitralekha Ramakrishnan in 2005 (See main story in this section).
We have been told by at least two persons who knew Ranjeeta that she was “a good wife and was far from any act that would attract the horrible business of Honour Killing.”
An Honour killing (also called a customary killing) is the murder of a member of a family or social group by other members, who believe that the victim (usually women and young girls) had brought them disrepute and dishonour.
The perceived dishonour is normally the result of one of the following behaviours, or the suspicion of such behaviours: (a) dressing in a manner unacceptable to the family or community (b) wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice (c) engaging in heterosexual acts outside marriage or even due to a non-sexual relationship perceived as inappropriate, and (d) engaging in homosexual acts.
Women and girls are killed at a much higher rate than men.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that 5000 women and girls are murdered by members of their own families every year. Many women’s groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia suspect the victims are at least four times more than men.
According to New York University Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, honour killings were encouraged in ancient Rome, where male family members who did not take actions against the female adulterers in their family were “actively persecuted.”
In the modern world, the term was first used by Ane Nauta, a Dutch scholar of the Turkish society in 1978. Nauta sought a term that could be used to distinguish honour killings from blood feuds.
Human Rights Watch defines Honour Killings as acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are accused to have brought dishonour upon the family.
A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce (even from an abusive husband) or allegedly committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonours” her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.
Cultures that practice Honour Killing apply the term to both sexes.
For example, according to estimates, 245 women and 137 men were killed in 2002 in the name of Karo-Kari. The practice is prevalent in Sindh, targeting women and men who choose to have relationships outside of their family’s tribal or religious community.
Some women, who bridge social divides, publicly engage other communities or adopt some of the customs or the religion of an outside group may be attacked.
In countries that receive immigration, some otherwise low-status immigrant men and boys have asserted their dominant patriarchal status by inflicting Honour Killings on women family members who have participated in public life, such as feminist and integration politics.