From Parsons to Ethnomethodology: Analysing the Indian Judicial Position on the Question of Gender in the Cases of Honour Crimes​​

Mr Ritabrata Roy
Assistant Professor, Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida, India.
Mr Shahzeb Ahmed
Junior Counsel, BlackRobe Chambers, New Delhi, India.

Volume IV, Issue I, 2021

The inhuman practices of honour crimes have constantly been rattling multicultural fabric of the Indian society for ages. These practices have often sparked an ongoing debate between the gender theorists and the cultural theorists, especially in the field of academia. This debate not only concerns the analytical supremacy of either of the two theoretical frameworks, but also raises some important issues which often remain under-explored, particularly in the court of law. The question of gender is one such crucial area of analysis as far as the honour crimes are concerned. Gender, as a concept has also evolved since the 19th century, largely because of the different waves of the feminist movement worldwide. The development of the notion of gender has been significant, from primarily being affixed to an individual’s biological characteristics, as touted by the theorists such as Talcott Parsons and Emile Durkheim, to being perceived as a social construction, largely by the ethnomethodologists. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has time and again addressed the question of gender while deciding the cases involving honour crimes, increasingly over the past two decades.  In this research, by adopting a comparative and doctrinal framework, we will analyse five of the landmark cases involving honour crimes, decided by the court in the last twenty years. Primarily by comparatively analysing the language of the judgments and the choice of words in those, we will try to determine the developmental trend of Supreme Court’s addressal of gender issues involved in these crimes in the light of the Parsonian and the ethnomethodological theories of gender. Our main argument is that, the court needs to urgently address issues of gender with regards to the male victims of honour crimes, as a mainstream one, rather than constantly marginalising them. In our opinion, this goal can be achieved gradually by adopting an ethnomethodological perspective of gender. Our primary findings indicate that despite its slow-paced attitude, the Supreme Court of India is gradually moving from a Parsonian concept of ‘gender binaries’ to a comprehensive ethnomethodological notion of ‘gender as a social construct’.

Keywords: honour crimes, judiciary, gender, ethnomethodology, theory, male victims.