Teenage girl's beheading spurs calls for 'honour killings' law in India

Images of the man carrying the girl's head were shared widely on social media.
Images of the man carrying the girl's head were shared widely on social media.PHOTO: TWITTER

LUCKNOW, INDIA (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - Police in northern India said on Thursday (March 4) they arrested a man who had beheaded his daughter and carried her severed head to the village police station, a case that spurred calls for a new law against so-called "honour killings".

The man told police he had attacked his 17-year-old daughter with an axe on Wednesday in anger over her relationship with a man.

"He said he saw his daughter in a compromising position with a man and he beheaded her in a fit of rage," police superintendent Anurag Vats of Hardoi district in northern Uttar Pradesh state told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"He has confessed to his crime," he said.

Images of the man carrying the girl's head were shared widely on social media, reigniting demands from women's campaigners for a specific law against honour killings to help protect potential victims and improve police investigations.

Human rights groups say thousands of women and girls are killed across South Asia and the Middle East each year by family members angered at perceived damage to their "honour".

Perceived offences can include eloping, fraternising with men, or any transgression of conservative values regarding women.

Last month, a woman was burned alive by family members over an inter-faith relationship in Uttar Pradesh, local media reported, quoting police officials.

"Daughters in India are seen as a sign of family honour, which results in such crimes," said Ms Madhu Garg, vice-president of the All India Democratic Women Association's Uttar Pradesh chapter.

"The issue of the right to choice needs immediate attention and a separate law should be made for dealing with honour killing," she added.

India recorded 24 honour killings in 2019, with Uttar Pradesh accounting for no cases. Two years earlier, the state registered 14 of the country's 92 such killings, recent government crime data showed.

Campaigners say government statistics on honour killing mask the scale of the crime, with women at greater risk than men.

"Almost 70 per cent of the victims in honour killings are women, and almost all of them are from the upper caste," said founder Arockiya Samy Kathir of non-profit Evidence, which has for years worked on honour killings in South India.

The Indian government in 2018 asked all states to set up special cells comprising police and welfare officers and a 24-hour helpline to help couples facing harassment or those seeking protection, but campaigners said compliance has been poor.