Yet another honour killing this month. More than a 1000 honour killings reported in India every year. A reported increase in honour killings among Indians, worldwide. We feel obliged to thank whatever gods there be that for one, we were allowed to be born. Two, that they educated us. Three, that they let us make our own fatal errors. Four, that despite the slings and arrows it is as Indian women in India that many of us have a life.
Though we frequently encounter respect and courtesy from Indian gentlemen, every Indian woman also encounters boorishness from what we may, for descriptive convenience, call Indian ‘men’. The misdeeds of our culture and society are reflexively blamed on religion. But perhaps Indians with 'modern values' are able to sort it out?
For instance, many people are hurt by the lack of respect for a woman's integrity in Bhishma’s generalisation that a woman “is naturally a temptress and a lurer and is not endowed with enough strength of will to resist temptation and therefore she is always in need of protection by men.” (Sreenivasa Murthy, 1993, pp. 114-115).
But they love the Mahabharata for many other things.
“The Buddha opines that women ought not to be entrusted with responsibilities as they are short-tempered, full of passion, envious and stupid; have no place in public assemblies, do not carry on business and do not earn their living by any profession” (Sreenivasa Murthy, 1993, p. 115).
But don’t these observations apply equally to men and women, just as virtues and qualities are shared by both? These are just indicative quotations from Patriarchal Ideology of Honour and Honour Crimes in India by Jyothi Vishwanath & Srinivas C. Palakonda, from the Open Access website, copyrighted to the International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences (IJCJS). Do see this site for news of an India that many of us have moved on from but which cannot be brushed under the kelim, it keeps jumping out to bite our nose.
However, there is Indian law, the modern Upanishad that is perceived to be about justice for all. Track One to address India’s honour killings, is of course longterm, effecting deep social change through transformative education. Track Two should not merit squeamishness on our part. If men kill women so easily, the law, our God, should award swift and sure punishment that fits the crime so that justice is seen to be done.
Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture