Bollywood raises awareness on ‘honour killings’ in new film

2010-09-01 07:26

Mumbai, India. – Bollywood is looking to raise awareness about so-called “honour killings”, as the Indian government comes under pressure from its own judiciary and human rights groups to tackle the problem.

Aakrosh (Anger), starring Ajay Devgn and Bipasha Basu, is being billed as the first Hindi-language film to address the issue, which the administration in New Delhi has described as “a national shame”.

The United Nations (UN) has said there are about 5 000 “honour killings” around the world each year. One recent report said some 1 000 women a year are victims in India, mostly in northern states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

Deaths often involve young people who have married outside their caste, village or religion or have broken strict conventions on kinship in rural areas.

The killings are carried out by relatives to protect the family’s reputation and pride.

Aakrosh, a thriller due out on October 1, is directed by the film-maker Priyadarshan, who was behind the family drama Bumm Bumm Bole inspired by the Oscar-nominated 1997 Iranian film Bacheha-Ye Aseman (Children Of Heaven).

In July, Indian police arrested five members of the same family in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly murdering a 20-year-old woman after she secretly married her lower-caste boyfriend.

A month earlier, the Supreme Court ordered government and several states to outline what steps they have taken to prevent “honour killings” after a spate of murders, including that of a pregnant journalist on a national daily.

Global rights monitor Human Rights Watch has urged the government to crack down on powerful village councils – or “khap panchayats” – that order killings, and the local politicians and police who often turn a blind eye.

Calls for laws to be tightened have sparked opposition, with some political groups and “khap panchayats”, which deny sanctioning killings, fearing a threat to traditional values and their way of life.

Researchers say the phenomenon in Hindu-majority India shows that “honour killings” are not only a problem in Muslim countries.

“We are talking about a deeply conservative, patriarchal society where the idea of brotherhood is strong,” Sherry Sabharwal, a Haryana University sociology professor, said.

“In Islamic countries, religion is used to justify the murders while in India it is tradition and caste,” she said.

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