Bill to prevent honour killings, protect right to choose life partner introduced in Rajya Sabha
As incident of honour killing continue unabated, a lawmaker has proposed a bill to give couples liberty to marry out of caste and religion
New Delhi: As killings in the name of honour and tradition continue unabated, a lawmaker has proposed a new law to give young couples the liberty to marry out of caste and religion and also to provide them a legal framework within which to exercise their choices.
YSR Congress party MP V Vijaysai Reddy has introduced a private member bill in the Rajya Sabha that aims to stop honour killings and other crimes in the garb of honour.
Endangering the liberty of a couple through social sanctions or ostracism and causing harm or harassment to them can evoke imprisonment of up to 10 years along with a fine, according to the new law proposed by Reddy.
'The Prevention of Crimes in the name of Honour and Tradition and Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances Bill, 2017' seeks to protect individual liberty, right of association, movement and bodily integrity and the right of adults to choose their own partners in marriage.
According to Reddy, honour crimes violate the fundamental rights of citizens.
"They unduly emphasise on the framework of 'honour' to control and regulate women's sexuality and their marital choices," he said.
At present, there is no specific law to check honour killings. There is also no specific law to protect couples facing harassment from various groups, including social and panchayat, marrying out of religion or caste. Such couples often seek the protection of high courts, say legal experts.
Reddy's bill prohibits unlawful assemblies and "other conducts" interfering with matrimonial alliances in the name of honour and tradition and proposes punishments and fines.
According to the bill, declaring a couple, who have got married or intends to marry, as brother and sister provided they are not children from the same natural parent is punishable. It is also punishable if their marriage is recognised by law or custom and pressure is brought on them or their families to leave the village or area of residence.
The above may evoke punishment of not less than two years extendable up to 10 years along with fine, the bill states.
The bill also seeks to provide all persons, including young persons and women, the right to control their own lives, to liberty and freedom of expression, right of association, movement and bodily integrity and the right to choose their own partners in marriage or otherwise.
"In view of the need to address the grave concern, the current Bill seeks to provide for protecting the right to life and liberty of consenting adults, prohibition of unlawful assemblies, criminal intimidation, harassment, violence and interference in lawful matrimonial alliances in the name of honour and tradition and establishes power and accountability of District Magistrates and other officials concerned to prevent such crimes," it states.
It also says that no person or any group of persons shall gather, assemble or congregate at any time with the view or intention of condemning any marriage, not prohibited by law, on the basis that it has dishonoured the caste or community tradition or brought disrepute.
A person who fails to report the commission of an offence against the couple can face imprisonment, which may extend to six months, or a fine.
A member of the unlawful assembly indulging in criminal intimidation of the couple or their family members/supporters, can be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year, which may extend to three years, and also be liable to a fine of up to Rs 30,000, the bill says.
If the threat to cause harm or injury is serious, the maximum punishment can extend to seven years imprisonment.
"Such crimes are also in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women which provide that women should have the right to freely choose a spouse," Reddy said.
The Law Commission of India, he added, had also recommended a legal framework to prevent acts endangering the liberty of the couple married or intending to marry and their family members