In India, almost 1,000 young people are murdered in the name of saving a family’s honor each year.
Known as honor killings, the murders are often committed when a forced or arranged marriage is rejected.
One young Indian widow, Devanish Meena, believes his wife was murdered by her parents because of their inter-caste marriage.
Reporter Jasvinder Sehgal has the story.
Devashish Meena claims his wife was murdered by her own parents. It’s was an act, he alleges, that was a horrific honor killing.
“My wife’s cousins told me that her parents killed her by electrocuting her in a water tank,”he journalists and activists gathered at a press conference in Rajasthan, “Is this not a case of honor killing?
Meena says the family did not even take their daughter to a hospital and no post morten was conducted.
This May, Devashish and Pratibha Gujar married in secret – far away from their home in New Delhi.
The pair had been in love for many years but their parents forbade their relationship because they are from different castes. They first met in the sixth grade.
"After that we became very good friends, but when we were in 11th grade her father found out about our relationship. As we belong to different castes he got angry and punished her to the worst extent,” he says.
Meena says Pratibha was tortured mentally and physically by her father, leading them to elope.
The widowed husband says he has presented evidence to the police of the killing, including letters and emails from his late wife saying her life was in danger and that her father was threatening her.
But is doubtful he will get justice.
"I have submitted all the documents and proof to the police, but the police is asking for eyewitnesses. From where can I bring the eyewitnesses? Had there been any eyewitnesses, she should have not been killed,” he says.
Women’s rights activists have come forward to support Devashish and demand the case be thoroughly investigated.
Kavita Srivastava, the secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, says Meena is distraught over his loss.
“He is begging for her. This is a kind of denial of the right to choice; second to eliminate her because of the honor of the family as if women are the repository of the honor and men are controlling it,” explains Srivastava, “These are the shocking details and the state refuses to engage.”
While cases of ‘honor killings’ continue to pile up convictions are few and far between.
Nisha Sidhu, from the National Federation of Indian Women says that India badly needs a specific law against the crime.
The Supreme Court of India has formulated guidelines intended to prevent honor killings, but right now they are only guidelines, not law, and some police are not even aware of them.
“Until a new [specific] law has been adopted, the guidelines of the highest court of the country against honor killings are to be strictly followed,” she says, “But the problem is that our police are not acquainted with these guidelines.”
Before new laws are in place, Nisha says that young women continue to seek refuge at her rescue center. Many tell stories of the violence they have endured – inflicted from their parents and relatives because of who they choose to marry.
“The daughters which come to me are tortured in cruel ways by their own parents. Some of them are punished by having iron rods put onto their genital organs while some are burnt by cigarettes,” she explains, “One of the girls was forced to drink acid, which caused her to lose her voice.”
Devashish Meena is listening to a Hindi song that Pratibha sung to him on a past birthday.
In one line she sings: “One day every body has to go… Their value will be that of soil”.
“I will bring justice to my dear wife,” says Meena, “I will fight for justice till the end.”
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