‘Evidence’ Kathir, who heads the Dalit Human Rights Defender Network, met with CM Stalin to give him a copy of the special Bill. He highlighted the need for Tamil Nadu to set a precedent for the country.

Evidence founder-director A Kathir and TN CM MK Stalin at the Secretariat Image by Special Arrangement
news 'Honour' Killings Bill Tuesday, September 27, 2022 - 17:21

A Kathir, founder-director of the Madurai-based rights organisation Evidence, met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on Tuesday, September 27 at the Secretariat to submit a draft bill aiming to end ‘honour’ killings. The Bill, titled ‘The Freedom of Marriage and Association and Prohibition of Crimes in the Name of Honour Act 2022’, has been drafted by the Dalit Human Rights Defender Network headed by Kathir. Speaking to TNM, Kathir says, “If the Bill is passed in Tamil Nadu, it will be the first of its kind in the country.” Though the Bill is intended to be brought in as a central law, Kathir points out that even setting a precedent in Tamil Nadu will go a long way. “Tamil Nadu sees an alarming level of ‘honour’ killing incidents among the southern states, so it is critical that it takes urgent action in the matter.”

The Bill seeks to “provide justice, compensation and rehabilitation in crimes committed in the name of honour vis-a-vis caste, faith, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, class, race, status and tradition”. The Bill also extensively details the forms of victimisation that can occur in the name of honour, and the type of compensation and monitoring mechanisms that need to be implemented. 

These are aspects that are not covered in the only other ‘honour’ killing bill to have been passed in the country – in 2019 by the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly. Kathir terms the Rajasthan bill, “...a vague, three-page bill that does not understand the issue in-depth.” At the time, activists had pointed out several flaws, including the concern that the 2019 bill does not include the parents as threats to inter-community couples, the Indian Express had reported. It was further reported by IE that the 2019 bill has no provision for couples to declare a threat to them so that an injunction can be issued against those presenting the threat. The Bill drafted by the Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network clearly covers both these concerns.

Kathir highlights the need for such a Bill to exist alongside the Prevention of Atrocities Against Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Act. “In the case of inter-caste marriages, the victims are also from a dominant caste, so their murders will only be registered under IPC. But where caste-pride is the motivator for the crime, there has to be a law that acknowledges this. Secondly, patriarchy robs women of their right to choose a partner or punishes them for their choices. The Bill takes both these factors into consideration.” Interestingly, the Bill seeks to protect any person in a relationship, not just married couples, across genders, sexuality, class, religion and caste.  

Read: Anti-caste coalition has drafted a Bill to end ‘honour’ killings: Here’s what it says

Emphasising the need for Tamil Nadu to set a precedent by passing the Bill, the activist recalls how in 2014, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had said that district-wise protection cells for inter-caste couples need to be formed. The cells are supposed to be formed by members from the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare, Social Welfare and Police Departments. “When Evidence recently filed RTIs to see if these cells have been formed, we found that barely three districts, such as Tiruppur, have properly functioning cells. In most cases, even the register to record the number of inter-caste couples seeking protection is not properly maintained,” Kathir says.

Kathir also says that the CM has assured that he will take the Bill into consideration. “I believe that the CM will go through the bill and take the required action. He himself has spoken about the issue of ‘honour’ killings many times while in Opposition. So has Kalaignar before him. Several DMK MPs like Tiruchi Siva have emphasised the need for separate legislature against ‘honour’ killings,” he adds.

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