The country registered 251 honour killings last year against 28 in 2014, recording a big spike in murders carried out by people professing to be acting in defence of their family’s reputation, the government said in Parliament on Tuesday.
The 792% number jump reflects rigorous data collection on honour killing, which the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) started doing from January 2014. It also points to the widespread existence of the crime.
Most cases went unreported in the past or registered as crimes under murder.
The figures given out by junior home minister Hansraj Ahir in the Lok Sabha are from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data.
“Only because of sustained campaign by women’s groups, a separate category was created for compiling cases of honour killing to get a real picture of the heinous crime. But there are still many cases that go unreported,” Kirti Singh, a SC lawyer, said.
Many people, especially women, are murdered each year in India by family members over perceived damage to “honour” that can involve eloping, fraternising with men or any other infraction against conservative social values.
But it was not known how many women died because the government didn’t provide a gender-wise break-up of the data for 2015.
The killings are reported under two sections — murder, which Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code deals with, and culpable homicide not amounting to murder that falls under Section 304.
Uttar Pradesh, which registered a single case in 2014, topped the list the next year with 131 cases of murder with honour killing as the sole motive.
“We will have to check how the home ministry or the NCRB arrived at this data,” said UP police chief Javeed Ahmad, responding to shocking jump in honour killings in the state.
India doesn’t have a specific law to deal with honour killing, forcing law-enforcement agencies to charge suspects under separate provisions of the IPC depending on the scale of a crime.
The government said in Parliament in 2014 that the law commission had recommended a proposed law, the prohibition of interference with the freedom of matrimonial alliance bill, to prevent honour killings and punish offenders.
The bill is pending, two years on. “Figures show the government needs to hurry up to bring the law,” said Sudha Sundararaman, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.