A full version of my latest column is available on Daily O titled, ‘Sakshi Mishra hounded: How the society controls a woman’s sexual, matrimonial and reproductive choices’.

On the same day that Sakshi posted her video appeal to her father, media reported the killing of Haresh Solanki a 25 year old Dalit man in Gujarat by his wife Urmila Jhala’s family who belonged to upper caste community. On June 20 a couple was killed in Pindwara, Rajasthan allegedly by the woman’s uncle since he objected to her inter-caste marriage. In September 2018 shockwaves were sent across the nation with the brutal killing of Pranay in front of his wife Amrutha who later publicly stated that, “My father ordered my husband’s murder,” allegedly because he was a Dalit. In May 2018 Kevin P Joseph, 23 was killed within 3 days of his marriage to  Neenu Chacko, 21, whose affluent family of Saint Thomas Christian community disapproved of the marriage. Earlier this week 21 year old Minakshi Chaurasia was allegedly killed by her father because she married another a man, also a Chaurasia, but from the same village, which is considered a taboo. In Jan 2018, Meenakshi eloped with her cousin Deepak, both of whom were stabbed by their relatives though Meenakshi survived, her family said she should have died too as she smeared family’s name in the colony.

It wasn’t until 2014 that NCRB started collecting separate data on the crime. As per 2014 NCRB report a total of 28 cases were reported where honour was the motive of murder. This number saw a shocking 792% jump to 251 cases in 2015 NCRB report and then fell to 77 cases in 2016 report.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in a historic order dated March 27, 2018  has held that the freedom of choice in marriage is an inherent aspect of Article 21 of the Constitution and therefore a fundamental right and laid down strict guidelines for the State, Police and Judiciary to prevent cases of ‘honour killings’ and protect woman’s right to choose.

Sifting through the public commentary on social media it can be noticed that many people believe Sakshi has caused shame to her father by bringing family matters into public, many claim that her father’s objection to the relationship is not because of caste but because of the boy’s age or education or income status, as if those are justifiable reasons for a father to control his daughter’s choices. Gopal Bhargava, a BJP MLA from Madhya Pradesh went to the extent of claiming that, “…news like this will lead to an unprecedented rise in cases of female foeticide in the country which will lead to a great imbalance in the male to female sex ratio.” As outrageous as it sounds it is not surprising because this sort of regressive and patriarchal mindset is exactly what behind the cases of honour killing.

A patriarchal and patrilineal society’s very survival depends upon controlling woman’s sexual, matrimonial and reproductive choices because it is through women’s womb that identities are produced and reproduced and controls over properties are maintained. Since only a woman can ever fully tell the identity of her offspring (until DNA tests were invented) there was only one way for the suspicious and vulnerable man to be sure that the offspring he was nurturing were really his own – that was to physically control the woman’s movement and sexual contacts. From this point onward the sense of man’s honour was artificially bestowed upon the woman’s body. The same control on women’s reproductive potential is required  to maintain racial purity, caste purity, community identities and nationhood.

Continue reading on Daily O.