Outraged by the spate of ‘honour' killings in and around the capital, civil society groups on Friday got together and demanded that the Centre take exemplary and comprehensive measures to end this crime.

In a memorandum to Home Minister P. Chidambaram, these women's groups pointed out that an individual choosing his life partner was a basic democratic right and, and it was guaranteed by the Constitution. This being so, the brutality, barbarism and impunity with which young couples were being murdered in the name of caste, community or family ‘honour' was a matter of great shame. These incidents highlighted the serious lacunae in the criminal justice system as well as the lack of political will on part of the government to curbing them.

At a meeting here, Rajya Sabha MP Brinda Karat demanded that the United Progressive Alliance government formulate a comprehensive law against ‘honour' killings; it should cover the entire gamut of issues including public humiliation and sexual assault, and should not adopt a piecemeal approach.

It was clear that more and more young citizens were opting for marriage of their choice. No one should be allowed to violate this basic democratic right in the name of tradition or ‘honour.' Families, relatives and extra-constitutional bodies which were taking the law into their own hands needed to be disciplined. The Union government must confront the practices that violated democratic rights enshrined in the Constitution, the memorandum said.

The real test, in these cases, would be the strength of investigation and prosecution. Cases against the accused must be watertight, and the police should not file weak charge sheets, allowing them to go scot-free. The perpetrators of the brutal and pre-meditated murders, those involved in the conspiracy as well as those who backed them should be given exemplary punishment without delay.

Simplify Act

Though the Special Marriages Act, 1954, allowed civil marriages between consenting adults, its provisions amounted to nothing less than discouraging a marriage of one's own choice. The provisions of this Act should be simplified, the memorandum said.

The most alarming aspect, it said, was the impunity with which family members, panchayats or community members glorified murders. They were emboldened by the government's tentative and unprincipled approach to tackling such crimes.

The groups that participated in the meeting include the Akhil Bharatiya Janwadi Mahila, the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the Students Federation of India, the Democratic Teachers Front Jana Natya Manch and the Jan Sanskriti.

Keywords: sexual assault

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