NEW DELHI: A new bill to stop honour killings and provide legal assistance to inter-religious couples and inter-caste couples has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha by a lawmaker. YSR Congress party MP V Vijaysai Reddy has introduced a private member bill proposing a new law to give young couples the liberty to marry out of caste and religion and also to provide them with a legal framework within which to exercise their choices.
The bill proposes imprisonment of up to 10 years along with a fine for endangering the liberty of a couple through social sanctions or ostracism and causing harm or harassment to them. Titled ‘The Prevention of Crimes in the name of Honour and Tradition and Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances Bill, 2017’, the bill seeks to protect individual liberty, right of association, movement and bodily integrity and the right of adults to choose their own partners in marriage.
Advocating strict punishment for honour killings and other crimes in the grab of honour, Reddy said such crimes violate the fundamental rights of citizens. “They unduly emphasise on the framework of ‘honour’ to control and regulate women’s sexuality and their marital choices.” At present, there is no specific law to check honour killings. There is also no specific law to protect couples facing harassment from various groups, including social and panchayat, marrying out of religion or caste. Such couples often seek the protection of high courts, say legal experts.
Reddy’s bill prohibits unlawful assemblies and “other conducts” interfering with matrimonial alliances in the name of honour and tradition and proposes punishments and fines. According to the bill, declaring a couple, who have got married or intends to marry, as brother and sister provided they are not children from the same natural parent is punishable. It is also punishable if their marriage is recognised by law or custom and pressure is brought to them or their families to leave the village or area of residence.
The above may evoke punishment of not less than two years extendable up to 10 years along with fine, the bill states. The bill also seeks to provide all persons, including young persons and women, the right to control their own lives, to liberty and freedom of expression, right of association, movement and bodily integrity and the right to choose their own partners in marriage or otherwise.
“In view of the need to address the grave concern, the current Bill seeks to provide for protecting the right to life and liberty of consenting adults, prohibition of unlawful assemblies, criminal intimidation, harassment, violence and interference in lawful matrimonial alliances in the name of honour and tradition and establishes power and accountability of District Magistrates and other officials concerned to prevent such crimes," it states.
According to the bill, a person who fails to report the commission of an offence against the couple can also face imprisonment, which may extend to six months, or a fine. A member of the unlawful assembly indulging in criminal intimidation of the couple or their family members/supporters, can be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year, which may extend to three years, and also be liable to a fine of up to Rs 30,000, the bill says.
If the threat to cause harm or injury is serious, the maximum punishment can extend to seven years imprisonment.