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Posted in: Honor Killings

Published on Jun 29, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Hindu Honor Killings Article Challenged by Hindu Human Rights Activists


Tell the truth—get in trouble. This always happens, there are no exceptions. And we wonder why so many people avoid telling the truth and why people can no longer recognize the truth when they see it?

Earlier today, I published a piece about Hindu honor killings. Yes, they are committed in India, not in the West. Hindu immigrants to Europe and North America very rarely commit honor killings. In my latest MEQ study, only 3% of the honor killings committed in the West were committed by Hindus.

But, as the author of two studies about honor killings (here's the first one), I would be remiss if I did not share such information once it came my way.

An honor killing is characterized by a family-of-origin conspiracy/collaboration which targets for murder a young girl or a young woman, a married mother, or an "unacceptable" male sexual partner. This is what makes an honor killing different from a western-style domestically violent femicide. This is the key feature of an honor killing.

In June, 2010, (this very month), 16 Hindu victims (five male-female couples, five girls alone, one man alone) were murdered, their bodies finally discovered, the perpetrators finally arrested or sentenced. The murderers were all members of the girl's family-of-origin in a planned conspiracy. In the West, fathers, mothers, grandmothers, uncles, brothers do not murder a young girl or a young woman because she chooses her own marriage partner or is, allegedly, having an affair. These Hindus murdered the couple even when the man belonged to the "right" caste, was too close a relative or lived in the same village.

These murders were not "dowry burnings" which are usually committed by a mother-in-law and husband against a bride. The motive here is greed. The in-laws and the husband want a new dowry. Hindu-on-Hindu honor killings are not committed by in-laws.

The Indian police (unlike the Pakistani or Afghan police) made arrests. In one earlier instance, five members of a single family were sentenced to death, the leader of the village council who helped hatch the plot was sentenced to life in prison, and the driver of the car used in the crime received a seven year sentence. The Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram is on record as saying: "The vilest crimes are committed in defending the honor of the family or women and we should hang our heads in shame when such incidents take place in the 21st century." Chidambaram also recommended some concrete actions to combat honor killings, including wider recruitment of women police officers.

The Indian (Hindu) media has been all over these cases. Recently, the British media picked up on it, which is how it first came to my attention. When I looked into the matter further, such cases—but only in India, not among Indian immigrants in the West—seem to date back to at least 2005.

Nevertheless, because I wrote about the phenomenon, I've already been criticized by some Hindu human rights activists. They should be crying out to high heaven on behalf of the Hindu victims. That is not the case. Here is part of one letter:

Is this Hindu honor killing or a social evil among Hindus? This we have to understand carefully. There is nothing Hindu about Hindus who do honor killings. (Hindus) worship woman as God and give (the) feminine the most highest altar, superior to man. Just google for Kali (the representation of the universe in its material aspect standing on dead Shiva or the substratum to Universe), Durga (goddess of Energy/Shakthi), Saraswati (goddess of knowledge), Lakshmi (goddess of Wealth). As in any society, there are social evils, that develop among people living in certain regions who happen to belong to a certain religion. While this has to be condemned as crimes, it is very naive to compare this (to) Muslim honor killings whose scriptures sanction second class (or worse) citizenship to women, whose "prophet," who serves as an example to Muslims has married a 6 year old girl while he is 50 etc. There are crimes against women in the West too, but we do not associate it with Christianity.

He said a lot more. I answered him of course. God knows where this will all end up.

I told him that nowhere in my piece at Newsrealblog do I mention "Hinduism" as a key factor or as a factor at all in these honor killings. If anything, I present these killings as a tribal custom—not as a religious one. And, I pointed out, the fact that goddesses are worshipped in Hinduism has not helped lower caste girls nor has it helped abolish the caste system. It certainly has not abolished female sexual slavery, rape, wife beating, honor killings, dowry burnings or the use of an amniocentesis test to abort female foetuses. The rule of Goddesses has not even allowed certain Indian girls, both rich and poor, to choose their own husbands.

My Hindu human rights activists keep writing. They are at pains to have me see it their way. Emails arrived all day long.

One Hindu human rights activist believes that the sudden flurry of attention towards—and/or the actual honor killings of Hindus—is possibly being orchestrated by foreigners or Islamists to "make Hindus look bad." I agree: The suddenness and intensity of the exposure is possibly suspect but the actual honor killings have truly occurred, Hindu Indians have written about them, Hindu Indian police officers have made the arrests, etc. These are not outsiders.

Nevertheless, my Hindu critic strongly believe that these honor killings have been influenced by Muslim ways. (That may be true–but so what?) They also believe that Hinduism, the religion, in which the "female principle" is worshipped, can in no way have inspired such mistreatment of women.

But this is exactly what "good," moderate, religious, non-Islamist, anti-Islamist Muslims say when I write about honor killings committed by Muslims against Muslims. "Not in my Qu'ran."

Religion may not have the power to tame the savage misogynist beast; religion itself may be the source of much misogyny. These are the two opposing, prevailing views on the subject.

As I said: If you tell the truth, peace flies out the window, acrimony ensues. If you force someone to look at their own behavior (or at the behavior of their co-religionists), you will get attacked if they do not like what they see.


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