Libmonster ID: SE-338

E. S. YURLOVA

Candidate of Historical Sciences

Keywordsviolence against womencastepanchayat, honor killing, inter-caste marriage

Against the background of the main processes in the development of mankind at the beginning of the XXI century - globalization and modernization - in many countries "unexpectedly" began to openly and acutely manifest trends associated not with moving forward - to the future, but rather with going back - to the past, to the roots of the traditional organization of society. In India, this is reflected in phenomena that affect the deep foundations of society, including in the field of family and marriage relations.

They manifested themselves, in particular, in such forms as the murder of women for the sake of family honor.

HONOR KILLINGS AND... DOWRY MURDERS

In May 2010, the mother of a 22-year-old journalist, Nirupama, was detained in Koderma, in the northern state of Jharkhand, on suspicion of honor killing. Nirupama's parents objected to her marriage to a non-caste man with whom she had studied at the Institute of Mass Communication in Delhi. Police arrested the mother on suspicion of strangling her daughter. The question of his father's involvement in the murder was investigated by law enforcement agencies. The National Commission on the Status of Women reacted sharply to this event, demanding to speed up the investigation of the circumstances of the murder1.

At the same time, another honour killing was reported in Andhra Pradesh, in the village of Krishnajivadi, also in May 2010. Sankar Srinivas, a 32-year-old Dalit (formerly untouchable), married a 22-year-old high-caste Swanna Reddy. This marriage did not receive the approval of her parents. To avoid trouble, the young couple moved to the state capital city of Hyderabad, where Sankar worked as an operator for a computer company. Svanna's parents invited them to their village, ostensibly to discuss some business. There was a quarrel, during which Swanna's parents began to beat Sankar, then took them both to the street, where about 30 people gathered. They were tied to a stake and a young couple was stoned to death by the mob. The police recorded the episode and arrested three people.2

Numerous reports of such killings submitted to the UN Human Rights Commission at the beginning of the twenty-first century covered a wide variety of countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe, where significant diasporas of Asian and African origin live.

The main victims of such murders were women. They numbered in the thousands. At the same time, many of these crimes remained unregistered, and their perpetrators remained unpunished. In a number of countries, the "honor of the family" justified such murders in the eyes of society.

Many human rights activists rightly view family honor killings as part of the broader problem of violence against women.

So, in India, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), more than 5 thousand brides and young married women die every year because their husband's relatives consider their dowry insufficient. According to the official Crime in India Report, more than 174,000 people were arrested in 2009 on charges of violence against women for dowry, and more than 23,000 were arrested on charges of murdering women on the same grounds.3 In Latin America, so-called crimes of adultery, in which women are killed, are essentially of the same order, and society is quite tolerant of them.

According to W. Brown, one of the directors of the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, murders of women for dowry and treason are similar to honor killings, since both are committed by male family members, and these crimes are considered" justified "and" explicable " from the point of view of tradition. In her opinion, such actions are carried out regardless of differences in "cultural and religious traditions" 4, i.e. by representatives of different civilizations.

Other researchers note that community involvement in violence and honor killings of women does not contradict the established tradition that a woman is considered the property of her husband and / or family.

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In addition, it supports the idea that violence against a family member is a purely family matter and is not subject to judicial review.

As a rule, such crimes are directed against women who have "dishonored" the family by their behavior. A woman can be a victim of violence for various reasons: because she entered into a marital relationship with a man in violation of the established norms, without the consent of her parents, after she was subjected to sexual violence or allegedly committed adultery, etc.

Often, a sufficient reason for resorting to honor killing is only the suspicion that the woman behaved in such a way that her behavior undermined the "honor of the family." In a patriarchal society, the" honor " of a woman is protected by the whole family, while the family is considered a sacred unit. Women in it can support honor killing, including because it can help preserve the honor and dignity of other young women in the family. Otherwise, they will also be marked with a "mark of vice", which will make it difficult for them to marry. Thus, the traditional family can consider such a murder as a kind of" purification "of the family name," atonement " for its sins.

Despite some common features of honor killing in many societies, the underlying causes that give rise to this phenomenon differ significantly from country to country, and even in their individual regions.

Such killings have recently become very widespread in Pakistan* and India. Despite certain efforts of the state to change the situation, the majority of the population is not ready to abandon patriarchal views on the place and purpose of women in the family and public life. Traditions continue to play a dominant role in family and marriage relations.

In India, with its vast ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity, the situation with honor killing looks different than in Pakistan or other countries.

The specificity of Indian society is manifested in its caste system. Due to the numerical advantage of Hindus, the strong influence of Hinduism on many aspects of public life, the caste has penetrated almost all ethnic groups and religious communities.

In some areas, such as the southern states of India, including Kerala, where matrilineal culture is still strong (due to maternal kinship), there are no cases of women being killed for honor. There are no such murders in the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, as well as in West Bengal.

However, in some northern states of the country, such as Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, and Jharkhand, where more than 300 million people live, the problem of violence against women and even their murder remains very relevant.5

This problem is perhaps the most clearly focused struggle between the deep traditions of society and new trends associated with changes in the socio-economic and political life of the country by the beginning of the XXI century.

CASTE PANCHAYATS-KEEPERS OF TRADITIONS

In northern India, relationships between people were traditionally regulated by a village social structure such as the panchayatp (council of five). There are four types of panchayats: caste-based, multi-caste, farm-based, and one-off, created to solve a specific problem. Members of traditional panchayats are only adult males. Their work is dominated by representatives of the dominant castes in the village, including influential retired officials, who are the main guarantors of the execution of their decisions.

Caste-based khap panchayats are most influential. The word khap itself is a deformed derivative of the Sanskrit kashtrap, which means " domination, an institution that controls a certain territory and enjoys sovereign or predominant influence in it." This territory was administered on behalf of the Gotra (a group of families considered half-blood relatives), which dominated several villages located in the area.6

The influence of caste panchayats was particularly strong in dealing with social issues.

The activities of the panchayats focused on issues such as maintaining peace and order in the village, reaching a compromise on property and inheritance issues. Over the course of their centuries-long existence, they have accumulated experience in resolving disagreements and disputes between individual families, and actively defended the established norms in inter-marital relations.

In the late twentieth century, caste panchayats became notorious for their decisions to abolish "controversial" marriages and punishing those who violated traditions. In recent years, the functioning of khap Panchayats has become particularly authoritarian. They do not allow "free-thinking", although it is manifested by young women who are not allowed to participate in meetings, even if their case is being considered. Young men are not allowed to perform, and it seems that all decisions are made unanimously. In fact, this is not the case.

The Khap Panchayat is neither a democratic body nor a broad representation, which is what they are trying to pass it off as.


* For more information, see: Suvorova A. A. Murder in defense of honor as a social phenomenon and modern barbarism / / Asia and Africa Today, 2010, N 6 (note). ed.).

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As a representative multi-caste body, they have become an organization consisting exclusively of Jat7 Their role as an informal legal system in the public consciousness has blocked their former traditional functions and caused them to be rejected in many sectors of society, especially among the intelligentsia.

THE CONFRONTATION BETWEEN TRADITION AND LAW

To understand the contradiction that has arisen between tradition and the new laws, let's turn to the old rules of marriage.

So far, the main pillars of the village community are unity (aikya), honor or dignity (izzat), community (biradari) and brotherhood (bhaichara). In a caste - based society, the main rule when entering into marriage is the need to comply with the rule of endogamy. Its essence is that members of a given caste should marry only its representatives, i.e. marriage is concluded within the caste. And in the caste itself, which consists of separate family and clan groups-gotras, in order to avoid incest, marriage could traditionally be concluded only between members of different gotras, i.e. marriage within them was a social taboo.

Under customary Hindu law, for example, in much of Northern India, marriages were performed in compliance with caste endogamy, gotra rules, and village exogamy. The essence of the latter is that residents of the same village were forbidden to marry among themselves. This largely applied to the nearest villages. In all these villages, the traditions and customs of the dominant Gotra had a huge impact on everyone else. If she followed a certain tradition when giving her daughters in marriage, all the other Gotras in this village followed this behavior.

Most caste groups, such as the powerful Jat caste, forbade marriage to a representative of any village that shares a common border with a Jat village. The remoteness of the bride and groom's villages was considered a kind of traditional marker of the social rank of families and gotras.

Today, in Northern India, village exogamy, which is observed by almost all caste groups, high and low, makes it difficult to find a suitable marriage partner. There is a deep-rooted belief that all men and women belonging to the same gotra or the same village are connected by the moral relationship of "brother and sister", and therefore sexual relations and marriage between them are unacceptable. Violation of this rule is regarded as an immoral act, equivalent to incest, and meets with violent resistance from the keepers of caste traditions.

For those who violate the traditional rules of marriage, a decision of the caste panchayat is made, which must be put into effect by the village administration. Punishments may include a fine, which goes to the village's public fund; ritual cleansing; public humiliation, when the culprit is smeared with mud or rubbed in the nose, or when he is forced to touch the feet of everyone present, or shave his head, or drink urine collected from one or more people. The culprit must promise never to do this again, arrange a dinner for all members of the caste, etc. Sometimes he is forbidden to live in the village.

But the penalties can be even harsher. And the most cruel thing is the exclusion from caste, which has become more often used in our days. Then he is an outcast, his daughters will not be able to marry, all communication with him ceases, etc. The most tragic decision is to kill the guilty person, his wife, and her parents.

All this is happening despite the new legislation that allowed marriage between a man and a woman belonging to the same gotra, emphasizes the Indian sociologist Prem Chowdhry8. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, while retaining the old concept of consanguinity, lowered the limits of prohibited kinship. Now, instead of the 7th degree on the paternal side, the 5th is allowed, and instead of the 5th degree on the maternal side, the 3rd is allowed. Marriage is not allowed between a brother and a sister, an uncle and a niece, an aunt and a nephew, or between the children of two brothers or two sisters.-

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cohn allowed inter-caste marriages between Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.9

One of the many episodes of confrontation between the traditional approach to family and marriage relations and the growing new secular trends in private and public life was the events near Delhi, in Kurukshetra, Haryana. Their discussion went beyond the region.

In 2007, two newlyweds - 23-year-old Manoj and 19 - year-old Babli-were killed by her relatives for belonging to the same gotra and village. In 2010, five members of the Babli family were sentenced to death by a court. The bus driver who kidnapped a married couple received 7 years in prison. And the head of the caste panchayat, who ruled on the murder of the newlyweds , - to life imprisonment. This is the first time in the history of the state of Haryana that such a sentence has been passed for "honor killing". He was welcomed by left-wing parties, the largest women's organization, the All India Democratic Women's Association, and other left-liberal groups.

Members of several caste panchayats rejected the court's decision and expressed their full support for the convicts. They also demanded a change in the new Hindu Marriage Act, which, in violation of traditional family and marriage norms, allowed, in their opinion, marriages between "brother and sister" 10.

It is also characteristic that some officials held traditional views on this issue and actually supported the decision of the caste panchayat. So, the current chief Minister of Haryana state Bhupinder Singh Huda spoke out against marriages concluded under the new law, and he called caste panchayats the same non-governmental organizations as all others engaged in public activities. Naveen Jindal, a member of Parliament from the Indian National Congress, attended one of these panchayats and promised to support the demand for changing the Hindu Marriage Law.11

Individuals who hold traditional views on marriage and the family have also come out in support of the ancient customs. So, two citizens filed a petition to the Supreme Court of India, in which they stated that traditional marriage is a fundamental right of all Hindus. The Supreme Court refused to consider the petition on its merits and invited its authors to appeal to the lower State High Court 12. Such pressure on the court is quite common. Caste panchayats often make decisions that are inconsistent with existing laws, and local authorities generally prefer not to interfere.

Thus, on January 31, 2010, the caste panchayat, which included 24 villages near Mehem (Rohtak District, Haryana), ruled that the marriage of Kavita and Satish, who had already had a nine-month-old child, three years earlier, violated traditional norms. The wife and husband belonged to different gotras, which was not a violation of tradition, but they lived in the same village.

The caste panchayat decided that according to the rules of the fraternity, girls from the dominant gotra in the village of Benwali, to which Kavita belonged, could only be sisters in relation to men from the same village. Therefore, the panchayat ordered Kaviata and Satish to leave the village, where they could not remain as husband and wife, and to give the child to the care of Satish's father, 65 - year-old Azad Singh. But this elderly man was also punished by the panchayat for allowing his son's marriage. He was humiliated by being forced to walk through the village with a shoe in his mouth.

Azad Singh's family was one of the poorest in the village and belonged to the minority Gotra. This aggravated his punishment. He was allowed to stay in the village on condition that he gave his land to an orphanage for mendicant monks. The caste panchayat also decreed that Satish would not be the father of his own son, but his uncle.

Kavita, with the support of her family, sent a complaint to the police with all the details related to the decision of the caste panchayat. She demanded action against all named panchayat members who had excluded her family from the village. However, the police, under pressure from influential people in the village, did not dare to take such actions. However, at a joint meeting of the caste panchayats of both gotras (husband and wife), a new decision was made: Kavita and Satish were allowed to remain husband and wife, but reside outside the village.

It is characteristic that the police remained silent, and one of the police officials said: "We need to change the general mood. In fact, how can you ignore the norms of brotherhood?"

Similar cases have been reported in many affluent villages in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Bihar. They were more likely to occur in the influential Jat caste, which strictly guarded the established system of rules when entering into marriage.

Not only Jats, but also other castes, even Dolits, protested against violations of caste rules in this area. Thus, on February 3, 2010, in a village in the Gisar district of Haryana, the Dolitoe caste Panchayat opposed the marriage of a young couple who violated caste norms. It was only under the pressure of public organizations and thanks to the insistence of the widowed mother of the groom, who threatened to commit suicide, that the Panchayat was forced to agree to the wedding.

THE FIGHT OVER INTER-CASTE MARRIAGES

The more actively traditional socio-economic structures are being eroded.-

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the stronger the resistance of traditionalists becomes. They are also actively opposed to inter-caste marriages allowed by the new law. These marriages undermine the foundations of the caste division of society, which continues to influence public life in the country, including the alignment of political forces.

Over the years of India's independent development, there has been a marked liberation of women from the traditional bonds of subordination. Many of them received a good education, got a job, including in state institutions, became involved in the activities of women's organizations and became more active in protecting their rights. The struggle against traditional norms of family and marriage relations is taking place against the background of significant changes in socio-economic and political life, which have led to the establishment of new views on tradition.

These changes are particularly noticeable in the rich state of Haryana.

Over the past 25 years, the number of girls enrolled in colleges has increased 4-fold, and the number of schoolgirls who have completed 12-year high school has increased 5-fold. At the same time, the number of young men who graduated from high school did not even double. Some districts in the state had more female students than male students. These changes in society lead to an aggravation of conflicts between tradition and the changed consciousness of the educated part of the youth. Their parents also experience a certain duality. On the one hand, they seek to educate their daughter in order to better marry her off, but at the same time they traditionally oppose love marriages, the number of which, however, is steadily growing 13.

There are still many groups and organizations in society that are interested in maintaining the old norms of social relations, especially family and marriage, which they see as the core of the entire hierarchical caste system. The" right " marriage is the last and strongest bastion of the caste. It is marriage within its own caste that ensures the preservation and reproduction of caste exclusivity. At the same time, family and marriage ties perpetuate the traditional values of the community. Therefore, any threat to violate them causes a violent protest from the community.

Since society does not accept inter-caste marriages, a couple intending to get married usually runs away from the village. The state, represented by the police, begins to search for them. It is responsible for returning a girl to her family or guardian and thus upsetting their marriage, despite progressive laws and the State's encouragement of inter-caste marriages. A runaway girl casts a shadow on the family's honor. Traditionally, the stigma of dishonor and shame can only be redeemed by punishing her, including killing her.

In this case, the community approves the action of the girl's father or brother, who controls her behavior that goes beyond the rules, when she asserts herself, showing independence. The silence of people indicates their acceptance of violence as a just punishment for a sinful offense. In fact, the use of violence is considered more honorable because it supports "morality" and restores the social prestige of the family.

There is a widespread perception that traditional society's resistance to inter-caste marriage is due to the difference between the ritual levels of different caste groups and the unique characteristics of all members of the same caste. Differences in diet, dress, beliefs, and rituals are sometimes given more importance than what different castes have in common.

However, as practice shows, recently an additional and most important factor influencing the rejection of inter-caste marriages has become the growing influence of caste in politics. Caste access to resources, as well as power relations between caste groups, is of great importance.

Inter-caste marriages destroy the status quo in both social and economic relations between castes. When marriage is a tool for preserving caste distinctions and identity, inter-caste marriages are a direct challenge to this trend. When caste has become an important element in the political trade, such a challenge is nothing new.

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otherwise, it is a threat not only to the families in which it occurs, but also to the entire caste group, because it undermines its position in the established social hierarchy. As a result, this group may split, split into factions, or be isolated and deprived of broader inter-caste and intra-caste communication. The solidarity of a caste group guarantees the employment of its members, support in obtaining education, establishing contacts and connections within the caste and even outside it.

Approval of inter-caste marriage tends to trigger a social boycott by the caste community. Although this is a very harsh measure, it can affect both immediate family members and other relatives if they do not take measures to prevent such a marriage. In some cases, violence and the death of the "guilty" are considered preferable to reconciliation with an inter-caste marriage.

Inter-caste marriages are not so common yet, because they face resistance, especially in the countryside. There is generally dissatisfaction with urban residents and their way of life. After all, such marriages can only survive in the city, where the newlyweds live far from their village relatives. They may not consider the opinion of their caste community, which is no longer able to control their behavior. However, their parents and relatives who continue to live in the village suffer. But often in the city, a young couple is overtaken by the revenge of their relatives. Usually, a woman who "disgraced" her family and caste is killed.

Especially fierce is the fight against marriages between Dalits and members of high castes. Although the state supports inter-caste marriages and provides monetary rewards to those couples where one of the partners is a Dalit (former untouchable), village relatives tend to prevent or destroy the marriage that has already taken place.

Such marriages are seen as self-affirmation by the Dalits, who break with tradition and now, thanks to the system of reserving seats for them in the civil service, often occupy high positions. Under their command may be representatives of castes of higher ritual rank. Hence the requirement to abolish the reservation system. This, in particular, hides the desire to " put " the Dalits in their traditional place. The marriage of a dolit and a girl from a "pure" caste is strongly condemned. By the decision of the caste panchayat, they are punished and, in some cases, killed. The Jats, who are considered the highest castes in socio-economic terms in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are strongly opposed to any intermarriage. They do not recognize the new legislation and dictate their laws through caste panchayats.

For example, in May 2002, a Jat girl and a low-caste youth were burned alive in the village of Shimli, Haryana, where 30% of Jats live. Earlier, in 1998, in the village of Ratdhana, in the same state, a Jat girl and a low-caste youth were tied to a stake and hacked to death in the very center of the village. No one came forward as a witness. Everyone was of the opinion that if a low-caste man was involved in a sexual relationship or attempted sexual activity with a higher-caste woman, he should be killed. The same fate can be shared by a woman, regardless of her caste, not only in Haryana, but throughout India.14

Recently, there are more and more cases when a woman's property status plays a decisive role in inter-caste marriage. And then the traditional ritual status gives way to the new - economic one.

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A typical case of this kind occurred in the village of Kakori in Haryana in 1998. A Pushplata girl from a well-to-do Jat family married a Brahmana Manoj Kumar, a lawyer by profession, without her parents ' consent. They met three years ago during college. After the marriage, the newlyweds spent four months wandering around different places and finally decided to return to the village of Manoja, because Pushplata was expecting a child. When the news of their marriage reached Pushplata's parents, it caused outrage among the Jats, who were the majority in her village and held leading positions in economic life.

The assembled caste panchayat of two villages (husband and wife), which included Jats and Brahmins, decided that Pushplata should return to the parental home. Otherwise, the Manoj family will be expelled from the village. The Brahmans were materially and quantitatively the weaker community and could not oppose the prevailing Jats in the village. In addition, in Haryana, the Brahmins were generally engaged in agriculture, were not priests, but farmers of a lower socio-economic status than the Jats. The Panchayat sent out instructions to 40 villages where Jats lived not to give shelter to the couple. In turn, Pushplata's family did not accept her marriage. My father stated: "It's a matter of honor. Our only choice is Pushplata's death or our own suicide. She's already dead to me. " 15

The brahmins in the village of Manoja were also deeply hurt. A suitor like Manoj, who is educated and has a good income, could be in good demand in the marriage market. He might be offered a brahmana wife from a respectable family with a large dowry. That is why the brahmans also insisted on observing caste endogamy, which was broken by this inter-caste marriage.

However, Manoj's parents did not send Pushplata back to her village. Then the panchayat's decree came into force. Manoj's parents and himself were kicked out of the house, which was locked up. Manoj filed a lawsuit against the panchayat's misconduct. His wife sent letters about the incident to the Chief Minister of the state, the Police Commissioner, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Haryana and Punjab. Despite all this, a local police official, also a Jat, refused to accept their case. Manoj then contacted the relevant authorities in Delhi. After their intervention, the local police officer was transferred to another location.

It was only then that Manoj was able to formalize a protest against the actions of the caste Panchayat. As a lawyer, he acted strictly according to the letter of the law. But the activities of the caste panchayat were beyond him. The Panchayat announced a social boycott of the Manoj family. His wife couldn't leave the house. The village doctor refused to treat his family, including his newborn son, and merchants refused to let him buy food and other goods. The number of Lawyer Manoj's clients has dropped dramatically.

Meanwhile, the new law allowed inter-caste marriage, including a brahmana and a woman from the Jat caste. Even according to tradition, this was a normal anulom marriage, when the husband's caste is higher than the wife's. However, according to the ideas of the caste panchayat, local established marriage norms were violated, because it was a love match.

"SHORTAGE OF BRIDES" - A SOURCE OF CONFLICT

The increased activity of caste panchayats, accompanied in some cases by murders for the sake of family honor, expulsion from villages, and other forms of social boycotts, cannot be explained only by a violation of traditional norms.

One of the main reasons is caused by gender asymmetry, a violation of the balance between the sexes, when in many states the number of women (especially young people) is significantly less than the number of men. In states such as Haryana and Punjab, there are 861 and 874 women per 1,000 males, respectively (data from the last census in 2001). Brides are simply not enough.

The main reasons for this situation are the desire to have a son and the desire to get rid of a daughter, including at the stage of pregnancy. As a result, the number of girls of marriageable age has significantly decreased in the northern states, especially in Jat settlements. And as a direct consequence of this, competition among young people for brides from the same caste has increased. In the face of an acute shortage of brides, caste communities tend to maintain strict control over the behavior of local girls.

The very fact that there is a growing shortage of brides has led some communities in Haryana and Rajasthan to gradually relax caste restrictions on marriage. However, this only affected men.

Ideas about status that were previously associated with the size of land ownership have changed. In modern society, indicators of high status are the education and nature of the groom's work. And in Haryana, the youth unemployment rate is very high. For example, in the Rohtak district, where a huge number of Jats live, 44% of men of reproductive age 15-44 years are single.16 There is no demand for unemployed grooms.

As a result of the shortage of brides, the northern states of India began to "import" girls from remote (geographically, ethnically and culturally) areas such as Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and others.

In a difficult situation were local educated girls who could not always find suitable suitors in their caste. And since the purity of blood and caste is ensured by a woman, se-

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mya still continues to strictly control her daughter's behavior and prevents her from freely choosing a groom. Her marriage must comply with accepted norms. If a girl decides on her own to marry for love with a man from another caste, this marriage is almost always doomed.

If the girl's parents deliberately violate traditional marriage norms, this family may have a conflict with their caste. Such a marriage conflicts with the right of grooms from their common caste to marry that particular bride. As a result, the bride's family may come under the "fire" of their caste panchayat, since she married her daughter "on the side" and thus deprived the "legal" bachelors of the right to marry her. Such a marriage is seen as undermining the solidarity of the caste and the caste hierarchy system. Therefore, a suitable groom for the bride's family with a good education and job, but from a lower caste, is considered an unacceptable choice by the bride's caste. In this case, the groom himself, his family and caste may also become the object of persecution by the caste organization to which the bride belongs.

The experience of inter-caste marriages in recent decades shows that traditional marriage norms are increasingly being adjusted in favor of economic factors. More affluent families, regardless of caste, are less susceptible to pressure from caste panchayats, which reduces the influence of the latter.

STATE AND TRADITIONS

It would be extremely premature to assume that traditional institutions, including caste panchayats, will quickly lose their influence.

A crucial factor in maintaining the influence of caste panchayats is kinship and clan ties, which sometimes cover tens of thousands of families that have been in mutual marital relations for many generations, or even centuries. In addition, caste panchayats are seen as the main guardians of the moral foundations of society.

For centuries, ties and alliances between various clans (male relatives, all have the same surname) have been preserved, which allowed them to mobilize the population in solving socio-political problems. On the basis of these unions, various federations of caste panchayats were formed in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, and villages around Delhi. All this has resulted in caste panchayats becoming an important tool for political mobilization and controlling a significant bank of electoral votes.

Hence the reluctance of political parties to incur their discontent. Otherwise, it may affect the election results. In 2004, the then Chief Minister of Haryana, O. P. Chautala, refused to make a decision in the interests of the law in order to restore justice. He stated: "Whatever the caste panchayat decides, it's all right."17. Non-interference on the part of political forces in the activities of traditional panchayats and even their support (often hidden) contribute to the preservation of the influence of these social institutions.

Local self-government bodies could play a significant role in weakening the influence of traditional institutions. The current elected local self-government bodies, which are also called panchayats, essentially limit their activities to economic problems. And an important area of social problems remains outside of their activity. According to some researchers, it is necessary to give these bodies broader social powers and strengthen their funding.

The Constitution of India was amended in 1992 to make it mandatory to reserve seats in panchayats-urban and rural self-governing bodies - for representatives of scheduled castes and tribes (in proportion to their number in a given locality), and at least one - third of the seats are reserved for women. In 2009, the central Government decided to allocate 50% of such places to women.18

These measures have helped strengthen the work of women's organizations to protect women from violence, provide legal assistance, and provide State and political support in critical situations. Although the State enacts laws aimed at promoting equality between men and women, society has not yet managed to break the power of stagnant traditions.

India has laws that are uniform for all citizens, covering almost all aspects of legal relations, except for those related to family, marriage, divorce, alimony payments, child custody and inheritance rules. The Constitution of India states that the State will strive to ensure the adoption of a unified civil code applicable throughout India. But this issue has not been resolved for 60 years, including due to the resistance of conservative leaders of the Muslim community. There is still no uniform code for all religious communities regulating family and marriage issues. The reason for this can be explained by the fear of certain political forces to disrupt the existing status quo in the multi-religious Indian society, which could lead to the loss of some parties of their positions.

Another issue is empowering women. It has been debated in the country since 1974. Numerous attempts to pass a bill introducing a 33% quota for women in parliament and state legislatures failed due to the fact that:-

page 52

religious, caste, and other factors that play a significant role in party-political mobilization in elections. Finally, in 2010, the upper house of Parliament supported the bill. However, in the lower house, this case has stalled due to the opposition of some parties.

All this shows that social reforms still face enormous opposition from traditional forces based on the deep-layered, historically formed division of society into different castes and religions.

In response to the increasing frequency of family honor killings in recent years, the Government of India announced in June 2010 that it planned to introduce a bill in Parliament that would increase the penalties for such crimes.19 The Government's decision was preceded by a ruling by the Supreme Court of India, which noted an increase in the number of honor killings and requested the central Government and the state Governments of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh for measures taken to prevent such incidents.

Thus, the Supreme Court of India was responding to a petition submitted to it on this issue by the non-governmental organization Army of Force (Shakti Vahini), which expressed deep concern about the increasing number of cases of such killings initiated by caste Panchayats. It said that caste-based panchayats commit crimes such as torture, violence, forced marriage, house arrest, and even murder. "These crimes are intended to protect the honor of the family by punishing women for alleged violations of community norms of behavior, especially sexual ones. Women are abducted, arrested, and accused of dishonoring their family's honor. The reason for the murder of a woman may be her rape or such a trivial event as her conversation with a strange man. These murders are often pre-planned and carried out in public in the presence of the villagers." The petition listed many cases that were reported in the media. "Honor killing," it stressed, " is a violation of the human right to a decent life. The State has an obligation to protect these people. " 20

Despite cases of resorting to the most odious traditions, the educated part of Indian society, mainly the urban population, does not accept them. This is reflected in the media, in the activities of women's organizations, and in the speeches of sociologists and lawyers. The Supreme Court of India, which is highly respected in the country, has a clear position on this issue. In one of the statements in connection with the trial of the case of inter-caste marriage, he stressed that " a woman is free to marry according to her choice. The Hindu Marriage Act does not prevent inter-caste marriages."

In making this decision, the court stated: "The caste system is the bane of our nation, and the sooner it is eliminated, the better. This system divides the nation at a time when we need to be united in the face of existing challenges. Inter-caste marriages are in the national interest, as they will lead to the destruction of the caste system." On cases of violence and honor killings, the court said there was nothing honor-related in them. "They are barbaric, shameful murders committed by savage, feudal people who deserve the most severe punishment. Only in this way can we put an end to these acts of barbarism. " 21

In Indian society, the voices of those who demand genuine equality for all citizens-men and women in the field of family and marriage relations-are increasingly heard. Especially in the realisation of equal inheritance rights for both sexes. Increasing women's employment and self-employment would make them more independent.

Over time, this could help to get rid of demographic asymmetry and weaken the influence of traditions. However, it will require a huge amount of public effort and, apparently, a lot of time in the historical perspective.


1 The Hindu. 04.05.2010.

2 Couple Stoned to Death in Andhra "Honour Killing", Hyderabad - http://www.outlookindia.com/27.05.2010.

3 The Indian Express. 23.01.2011.

4 http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/02/0212_020212_honourkilling.html

5 The Hindu. 11.07.2010.

Singh Ranbir. 6 The Need to Tame Khap Panchayats // Economic and Political Weekly (EPW). 22.05. 2010, p. 17.

7 Ibidem.

Chowdhry Prem. 8 Contentious Marriages, Eloping Couples. Gender, Caste, and Patriarchy in Northern India. New Delh, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 92 - 93.

9 The Hindu Code Bill (As Amended by the Select Committee), Allahabad. Law Book Co, 1950, p. 13 - 14.

10 Frontline. April 24-May 07.2010.

11 Hooda Opposed to Same Gotra Marriages. Rohtak http://www.outlookindia.com 03.06.2010.

12 SC Declines to Hear PIL Against Same Gotra Marriage http://www.outlookindia.com 14.06.2010.

13 http://www.outlookindia.com 12.06.2010.

Chowdhry Prem. 14 Op. cit., p. 195 - 196.

15 Ibid., p. 160.

16 http://www.outlookindia.com. 12.07.2010.

17 EPW, December 26, 2009, p. 18.

18 EPW, October 3, 2009, p. 3.

19 Bill in Parliament to Curb Honour Killing Soon http://www.outlookindia.com 21.06.2010.

20 Honour Killing: SC issues Notice to Centre, 8 States http://www.outlookindia.com 21.06.2010.

21 The Hindu. 08.07.2006.


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