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Culture & Religion

Death Penalty For Honor Killings Stirs Controversy In India

Friday's sentencing of five people found guilty of the "honor killing" of a mixed-caste couple is the latest in a series of decisions that have generated debate.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

On Friday, a death sentence was handed down to five people found guilty of the 2010 murder of a mixed-caste couple. It was the latest in a series of decisions intended to crack down on so-called “honor killings” in India, and reflects the position of the nation’s Supreme Court, which last year made such killings “for whatever reason” punishable by death. Since then, lower courts in the states of Delhi (where last week’s sentence was delivered) and Uttar Pradesh have imposed the penalty in almost every case, causing India’s Law Commission to criticize the Supreme Court’s “blanket direction” in an August 2012 report.

What’s the Big Idea?

Since the 1980s, India’s death penalty has been reserved only for the “rarest of rare” cases. Even those sentenced to death are rarely executed: All of the more than 400 people who arrived on death row between 2007 and 2011 are still living. In an attempt to find a legal middle ground, the Law Commission has proposed a law to ban extralegal bodies of “community elders” who permit honor killings in order to preserve their individual village’s traditions. Such groups, according to the report, are a “social evil” that threaten young people’s individual freedoms.

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