Honour killings are usually seen only through the caste lens and not through the gender lens and there in lies the problem, said Kathir, executive director of Evidence, who has worked extensively on killings in the name of honour.

If there is anger over a woman choosing her partner without the consent of her family, that anger is only amplified by class, caste, sub-caste and community. But the anger is first triggered by the woman exercising her autonomy rejecting the patriarchy of the family, he said.

According to Mr. Kathir, the international definition of a honour killing underlines the patriarchy of the family, caste, class, community or religion as instigating ‘honour’ killing. “Even before caste and class, it is patriarchy that condemns a woman for exercising her bodily autonomy to choose her partner.

“There is a college in Dindigul, where a third of first year girls are married and are pregnant, soon after the Plus 2 board exams. I was told by the principal that families marry their daughters before college admissions fearing their girls will fall in love in college, irrespective of who they may or may not fall in love with. Patriarchy informs caste, class and community. A husband killing his wife over suspicion of an extramarital affair is also an ‘honour’ killing,” he explained.

“Since ours is a caste-based society, we have familiarised honour killings with caste alone, with little understanding that the family is the fundamental unit and so called perceived honour flows from the family to the caste and then the community,” Mr. Kathir added.

According to V. Geetha, social historian, “Honour flows from the heterosexual family that affirms its identity in and through erecting caste and community barriers. These shape family behaviour in turn. But even where caste is absent, there is clan and community over which girls are killed in parts of North Africa and West Asia.”

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