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In news that is sure to give hope to couples marrying outside their caste in Tamil Nadu, the government has set up a special cell in Madurai to prevent honour killings and provide help to the ostracised.
The cell has been in the offing for a while now.
In April 2016, due to the rising number of honour killings in the state, Madras High Court had issued a nine point directive to set up such a cell in each district within a period of three months. In addition to the cell, the court had mandated that a fund was to be created to help the cell pay for a 24-hour helpline to offer assistance, advice and protection to couples being threatened by family or community members, and to provide temporary shelters and rehabilitation help to them.
Despite the legal mandate, police action is often quite the opposite. In one case, an adult woman was forced to go back home with her family because she wasn’t married to her partner, violating the Domestic Violence Act that recognizes live-in relationships. Outraged, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) had declared that it would file a contempt petition over non-compliance of High Court’s 2016 order in June this year.
And finally the Tamil Nadu government is coming through, at least in Madurai.
The cell will comprise the Superintendent of Police, the District Social Welfare Officer and the District Adi Dravidar Welfare Officer.
Despite the delay of over a year and the fact that it is not known when the cells will be instituted in other districts, the move has been welcomed by human rights activists and The Communist Party of India (Marxist), according to the reports.
Human rights activists have also demanded that the cells be made up of officials from varied castes and there should be efforts to ensure that officials from dominant castes and communities are not tasked with the job of handling caste-based crimes to avoid any conflict of interest and interference.
It is indisputable that India has an honour killing problem. From 2014 to 2015, honour killings in the country grew by 796 percent, according to National Crime Record Bureau statistics. In 2015, The Punjab and Haryana High Court had passed a similar order to set up ant-honour killing cells.