Killed for falling in love with the wrong person
Neenu Chacko had just enrolled for a course in geology and water management at BK College in Kottayam district of Kerala when she met Kevin Joseph, a mechanic by profession, at the bus stop. The meeting led to many phone calls. They became friends and then graduated to being lovers when Kevin professed his love. However, Neenu was not too sure, as deep inside she knew that her family would not be very accepting towards their relationship.
Kevin, a Dalit Christian, had never contemplated that he would have to pay with his life for having dared to love Neenu, an upper caste Christian. Immediately after the duo opted for a registered marriage, Kevin was abducted and killed by the girl’s brother. The killing comes as a shock, as it has not taken place during the Elizabethan era or in a country like Afghanistan or even in a state like Haryana, but in India’s most progressive and educated state, Kerala.
Kevin’s case is not unique. Delhi-based photographer, Ankit Saxena’s killing in broad daylight for having loved a Muslim girl, is another love story which had a painful end, simply in the name of saving a family’s honour.
Related reading: How we waited for eight years for our families to accept our love
Social norms dictate the rules of honour
“Honour killing, as the name suggests, is a way of avenging the sense of insult inflicted upon the family for a lower caste man daring to love an upper caste girl, as in this case. It’s done to instil a sense of fear in people daring to love beyond the norms set by the society,” says V Suresh, national general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
Steve Taylor, a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University, UK, notes, “Women of patriarchal societies are seen as a bearer of a family’s honour. They need to dress in a certain way, behave in a certain way and also agree to marry a man chosen by her family. If a woman behaves in a way which contradicts the norms set by the society, then it is considered to be dishonourable and hence can be punished by death.”
Related reading: Here are some social norms in India that you should break free from
Fear of what society will say
Hashir Ahamed from Chennai, who has studied the psychology behind honour killing, explains, “There are two main emotions that any human experiences – love and fear. Often fear overtakes love and that makes an individual commit a crime like honour killing.
Often fear overtakes love and that makes an individual commit a crime like honour killing.
In most of these cases, the parents are torn between their love for their child and the fear of being bad-mouthed in the community. It has been observed that in most cases the fear of earning a bad name in the society wins, thereby leading to the murder of those who dared to defy the norms set by the society.”
He points out, “The moment parents accept the relationship, and overcome the fear of losing one’s honour, things can be worked out. The family needs to understand that their child’s love relation is not the first inter-caste or inter-religion marriage. Bollywood has plenty of such ‘happily married after’ couples who are really happy despite having an inter-faith marriage. Look at Shah Rukh and Gauri, don’t they make a lovely inter-faith couple? They didn’t even have to change their religion.”
Perhaps he has a point. If we look around, amongst us, we can find many such couples who have defied the norms and are living happily. That is precisely because their parents at some point gave in and accepted the relationship.
Women are treated like property that must follow social dictates
Jaipur-based psychotherapist, Dr Anamika Papriwal, elaborates, “Women are treated like family property, and are expected to behave in a certain way. When they do anything beyond the prescribed norms, then there seems to a societal pressure on them to have it rectified in order to conform to the norm. This tussle in their mind often creates a psychological fear of being boycotted by the society or ‘what people will say’ syndrome. Hence, they resort to killing their child or their lover in order to retain their honour. Acceptance and forgiveness is the key to controlling hate.”
Perhaps that is the reason, why Ankit’s father chose to overcome the hate even after his young son had been killed. Determined to bridge the difference that still bedevils society, he threw an open inter-faith iftar party.
Related reading: How I convinced my father-in-law
How to prevent honour killing
Dr Papriwal suggested a few things for the parents to remember, when confronted with the news of their child falling in love with someone they don’t approve of.
- Your child has the right to choose
- Your child’s love story is not the first inter-faith or inter-caste love story
- Accept your child’s choice
- Don’t hate your child’s partner just because your child defied you
- Consult a psychologist immediately, if you feel that you can’t contain the hate
- Hate is a powerful emotion, you can control it only by forgiving
- If you are still against the relationship, have an open discussion with the couple and their respective families
- Remember, your child is most important. The society comes later. If you accept the relationship, people will talk for a while and then forget, once they get something else to gossip about
- There is always a way out, without killing