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India high court orders government to explain action on honor killings

The Supreme Court of India [official website] on Monday ordered the central government and seven state governments to explain the steps they have taken to reduce honor killings [AI backgrounder]. The order comes in response to a petition [TOI report] filed by Shakti Vahini [advocacy website], a non-governmental human rights organization seeking the implementation of stricter laws against the perpetrators of honor killings. The organization is also seeking the creation of special police units [Hindustan Times report] dedicated to the protection of people who believe that they will be the target of an honor killing. Shakti Vahini alleges that the central and state governments have not adequately addressed the issue of honor killings due to political considerations. These killings are believed to be carried out at the order of village governing bodies for actions such as marrying a member of the wrong caste [LOC backgrounder], or otherwise committing an action that is considered to bring shame to the community. Honor killings have been the cause of 30 deaths [BBC report] in the previous 18 months in India. Over the weekend, two more instances of suspected honor killings were reported. In both cases, the victims were couples whose relationships continued despite objections from their families.

Honor killings, along with other forms of violence against women, have been the focus of numerous human rights groups and international organizations. Earlier this month, in a report [JURIST report] issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], the organization called for the government of Iraqi Kurdistan to take greater steps against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) [WHO backgrounder], while praising the government's efforts to punish honor killings by outlawing reduced sentencing for those convicted of committing them. In 2005, the UN Human Rights Committee criticized Yemen [JURIST report] for not incorporating many of its 2002 recommendations for civil and political rights in the country, including inequality for women, honor killings and FGM, and alleging serious rights violations were used to combat terrorism. The committee, which monitors adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], acknowledged the creation of a Ministry of Human Rights in Yemen in May 2003, but said Yemen should work towards creating a national human rights organization and strive towards equality between men and women by reexamining certain laws, among other possible reforms.

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