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Published : October 29, 2014 | Author : URMILA BHARDWAJ
Category : Criminal law | Total Views : 6022 | Rating :

  
URMILA BHARDWAJ
URMILA BHARDWAJ RESEARCH SCHOLAR AT KURUKSHETRA UNIVERSITY KURUKSHETRA.
 

Nothing Honourable in "Honour Killing" A Social Stigma

There is neither any statutory definition for Honour killing nor stands any precise definition otherwise for honour killing which can be said to be universally recognized. however most prevalent meaning is, "the murder and forced suicide in the name of imposing certain moral values, the transgression of which are professed as intolerable are honour killings". An honour killing (also called a customary killing) is the murder of a family or clan member by one or more fellow family members, where the murderers believe the victim to have brought dishonour upon the family, clan or community. Honour killing dealt with a barbaric custom of murdering women for immoral activities, at the hands of male family members, including fathers, brothers and even husbands, to maintain the purity of honour or restore the family honour. the daughters who disobey their parents and decide to marry with a man of her choice, consider to bring dishonour upon her family and commit an offence that could be purified only with blood. Relatives, usually male, commit acts of violence against wives, sisters, daughters and mothers to reclaim their family honour from real or suspected actions that are perceived to have compromised it.1

India 'honour killings': Paying the price for falling in love. Who wants to kill their own children? But whatever God wanted, happened” Villager in Rohtak .2

Meaning And Definition Of Honour Killing:

An honour killing, or honour killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonour upon the family or community.2 The perceived dishonour is normally the result of one of the following behaviours, or the suspicion of such behaviours: dressing in a manner unacceptable to the family or community, wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice, especially if to a member of a social group deemed inappropriate, engaging in heterosexual acts outside marriage and engaging in homosexual acts.

Human Rights Watch Defines "Honour Killings" As Follows:

Honour killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonour upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that "dishonours" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.3

Men can also be the victims of honour killings by members of the family of a woman with whom they are perceived to have an inappropriate relationship.4 The loose term "honour killing" applies to killing of both men and women in cultures that practice it.5

Sharif Kanaana, professor of anthropology at Birzeit University, says that honour killing is: A complicated issue that cuts deep into the history of Arab society. .. What the men of the family, clan, or tribe seek control of in a patrilineal society is reproductive power. Women for the tribe were considered a factory for making men. The honour killing is not a means to control sexual power or behaviour. What's behind it is the issue of fertility, or reproductive power.6

Causes For Honour Killing:

The main reason for commitment of an ‘honour killing’ is belief that any member of family had brought dishonour to the family. The dishonour can be of different types for different families. The perceived dishonour is normally the result of the following behaviours, or the suspicion of such behaviours, which are dress codes unacceptable to the family/community; or wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice; or engaging in certain sexual acts, including those with the opposite or same sex, etc.

Also the most obvious reason for this practice to continue in India is because of the fact that the caste system continues to be at its rigid best and also because people from the rural areas refuse to change their attitude to marriage. Also in our country the society is mainly the patriarchal. Men are expected to enforce such norms and traditions and protect family and male honour from shame. Women are expected to conduct themselves honourably. This understanding of the notion gives legitimacy to all forms of social regulation of women’s behaviour and to violence committed against them.

So far, there is no specific law to deal with honour killings. The murders come under the general categories of homicide or manslaughter. Sometimes the honour killings are also done by a mob and so when a mob has carried out such attacks, it becomes difficult to pinpoint a culprit. The collection of evidence becomes tricky and eyewitnesses are never forthcoming. But ‘Honour Killings’ are against International Law on Human Rights and against United Nation agendas. But still even though we don’t have any law to deal with it specifically in India but we have judicial precedence over it. There are also some bills which are in the latent stage against the honour killings, which are planned to be introduced in the parliament sooner.

Some other causes of Honour Killing:
• Allegation of pre-marital or extra-marital sex.
• Refusal for an arranged marriage.
• Inter-caste or inter-religious marriage.
• Pregnancy not related with legally married husband.
• Homosexuality.
• Live-in-relationship.

Reasons For Increasing Incidents Of Honour Killings : Religionalization of laws such Hindu personal law,muslim personal law,christan personal law etc.Women’s are forced to consider every aspect of their life from the perspective of their "honour "as a quality which is felt to reflect both the entirety of their social worth and reputations of male members of their family. male reputation is depend upon female "honour". female "honour" is passive in nature cantering on qualities such as subordinacy , modesty ,and patience, whereas male "honour" is active and dynamic, centring on qualities such as self-assertion, dominance and social status. once female honour is lost through any act which is considered dishonouring in her society, there is no way it can be regained. Other members of her family may face pressure to take violent action which will restore their position in society7.

Historical Perspective Of Honour Killing:

As noted by Christian Arab writer, Norma Khouri, honour killings originate from the belief that a woman’s chastity is the property of her families, a cultural norm that comes "from our ancient tribal days, from the Hammurabi and Assyrian tribes of 1200 B.C8

Matthew A. Goldstein, J.D. (Arizona), has also noted that honour killings were encouraged in ancient Rome, where male family members who did not take actions against the female adulterers in their family were "actively persecuted".9

The origin of honour killings and the control of women is evidenced throughout history in the culture and tradition of many regions. The Roman law of Pater families gave complete control to the men of the family for both their children and wives. Under these laws, the lives of children and wives were at the sole discretion of the men in their family. Ancient Roman Law also established historical roots of honour killings through the law stating that women found guilty of adultery could be killed by their husband in whatever manner the husband desired. In ancient Rome, being raped was seen as dishonourable to the point of destroying a woman's life and reputation, and honour killing was supposed to be a "merciful" act. In Greece also, the lives of women were dictated by their husbands as women were considered socially below males.10

Honour Killing In India:

Honour killings have been reported in northern regions of India, mainly in the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, as a result of people marrying without their family's acceptance, and sometimes for marrying outside their caste or religion. In contrast, honour killings are rare to non-existent in South India and the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. In some other parts of India, notably West Bengal, honour killings ceased about a century ago, largely due to the activism and influence of reformists such as Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Vidyasagar and Raja Ram Mohan Roy.11Among Raj puts, marriages with members of other castes can provoke the killing of the married couple and immediate family members. This form of honour killing is attributed to Raj put culture and traditional views on the perceived "purity" of a lineage. The Indian state of Punjab has a large number of honour killings. According to data compiled by the Punjab Police, 34 honour killings were reported in the state between 2008 and 2010: 10 in 2008, 20 in 2009, and four in 2010.12 Haryana is also notorious for incidents of honour killing, mainly in the upper caste of society, among raj puts and jaats.13 Bhagalpur in the eastern Indian state of Bihar has also been notorious for honour killings.14 Recent cases include a 16-year-old girl, Imrana, from Bhojpur who was set on fire inside her house in a case of what the police called 'moral vigilantism'. The victim had screamed for help for about 20 minutes before neighbours arrived, only to find her smouldering body. She was admitted to a local hospital, where she later died from her injuries.15

In 1990 the National Commission for Women set up a statutory body in order to address the issues of honour killings among some ethnic groups in North India. This body reviewed constitutional, legal and other provisions as well as challenges women face. The NCW's activism has contributed significantly towards the reduction of honour killings in rural areas of North India15 According to Pakistani activists Hina Jilani and Eman M. Ahmed, Indian women are considerably better protected against honour killings by Indian law and government than Pakistani women, and they have suggested that governments of countries affected by honour killings use Indian law as a model in order to prevent honour killings in their respective societies.16

Legal Provisions Regarding Honour Killing:

Legislation on this issues varies, but today the vast majority of countries no longer allow a husband to legally kill a wife for adultery (although adultery itself continues to be punishable by death in some countries) or to commit other forms of honour killings. However, in many places, adultery and other "immoral" sexual behaviours by female family members can be considered mitigating circumstances in case when they are killed, leading to significantly shorter sentences.

In the Western World, a country that is often associated with "crimes of passion" and adultery related violence is France, and indeed, recent surveys have shown French public to be more accepting of these practices than the public in other countries. One 2008 Gallup survey compared the views of the French, German and British public and those of French, German and British Muslims on several social issues: 4% of French public said "honor killings" were "morally acceptable" and 8% of French public said "crimes of passion" were "morally acceptable"; honour killings were seen as acceptable by 1% of German public and also 1% of British public; crimes of passion were seen as acceptable by 1% of German public and 2% of British public. Among Muslims 5% in Paris, 3% in Berlin and 3% in London saw honour killings as acceptable, and 4% in Paris (less than French public), 1% in Berlin and 3% in London saw crimes of passion as acceptable.17

According to the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur submitted to the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2002 concerning cultural practices in the family that reflect violence against women (E/CN.4/2002/83):

The Special Rapporteur indicated that there had been contradictory decisions with regard to the honour defense in Brazil, and that legislative provisions allowing for partial or complete defense in that context could be found in the penal codes of Argentina, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Peru, Syria, Venezuela and the Palestinian National Authority.18

The Hindu Successions Act And Property Issues:

The Hindu Succession Act amended in 2005 which mandated inheritance rights to daughters has led to greater insecurity among the land holding communities. This has led to a situation where the community feels that their daughters can bring in new stakeholders like a husband from another caste who can claim the right to the wife’s claim. In an arranged marriage social pressures exist and the parents are assured that no such claim will come. In cases of contentious marriage there is always a lurking danger that the daughter can exercise the right of inheritance. This has led to the landed communities like the jats to devise means to negate the law on daughter inheritance by having very strict guidelines for the marriage.

Lack of Education Among Females:

The education among the girls which is slowly but steadily percolating at the grass roots must be supported by laws which enable them to exercise their fundamental rights. The education and awareness among the women and girls need to be supported by laws which protect them from a rigid and stubborn society which just doesn’t want to let go its hold over women

Laws Presently On The Honour Killing:

Cultural crimes are basically the crimes that seek to place within the context of culture or under the head of it. As we all know recently; there has been a spate of honour killings which has shocked the country. Honour killing is one of the types of cultural crime present in the country. An honour killing (also called a customary killing) is the murder of a (typically female) family or clan member by one or more fellow (mostly male) family members, in which the perpetrators (and potentially the wider community) believe the victim to have brought dishonour upon the family, clan, or community.18(1)

The aim of the present essay is two-fold. Firstly we intend to show that what actually an ‘honour killing’ means and what are the reasons behind its occurrence. Also we will discuss about the position of International Law over ‘Honour Killing’. Secondly, we will be going to see that what are the various laws are present instantly in the country against the ‘honour killing’ and will try to find what more laws ought to be there to stop such a heinous crime.

Reasons For Honour Killing:

The main reason for commitment of an ‘honour killing’ is belief that any member of family had brought dishonour to the family. The dishonour can be of different types for different families. The perceived dishonour is normally the result of the following behaviours, or the suspicion of such behaviours, which are dress codes unacceptable to the family/community; or wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice; or engaging in certain sexual acts, including those with the opposite or same sex, etc.

Also the most obvious reason for this practice to continue in India is because of the fact that the caste system continues to be at its rigid best and also because people from the rural areas refuse to change their attitude to marriage. Also in our country the society is mainly the patriarchal. Men are expected to enforce such norms and traditions and protect family and male honour from shame. Women are expected to conduct themselves honourably. This understanding of the notion gives legitimacy to all forms of social regulation of women’s behaviour and to violence committed against them.

So far, there is no specific law to deal with honour killings. The murders come under the general categories of homicide or manslaughter. Sometimes the honour killings are also done by a mob and so when a mob has carried out such attacks, it becomes difficult to pinpoint a culprit. The collection of evidence becomes tricky and eyewitnesses are never forthcoming. But ‘Honour Killings’ are against International Law on Human Rights and against United Nation agendas. But still even though we don’t have any law to deal with it specifically in India but we have judicial precedence over it. There are also some bills which are in the latent stage against the honour killings, which are planned to be introduced in the parliament sooner. Let us discuss them under the following heads.

International Laws Regarding Honour Killing:

"Honour killings" are a recognized form of violence against women in international human rights law because they violate women's rights to life and security of the person. International law obligates states to protect women from gender-based violence, including by family members, and to disqualify "honour" as a legal defence for acts of violence against women. 19 . ‘Honour killings’ are an extreme and brutal abuse of human rights, violating the most basic of human rights—the right to life—as well as every other article in the International Convention on Human Rights (1948). The presence of laws that treat ‘honour killings’ leniently is also a brazen disregard of the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights (1966), protecting individuals against the use of the death penalty except for the most serious of crimes. ‘Honour killings’ also violate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979).

Article 1 of the Convention states that“For the present Convention, the term ‘discrimination against women’ shall mean any distinction, exclusion, or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on the basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

Article 2 states that “States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake:

(c) To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination;

(f) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women;

(g) To repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.”

This UN charter has been signed by 185 countries worldwide - over ninety percent of the members of the United Nations – including most countries where ‘honour killing’ occurs. ‘Honour killings’ violate both the wording and the spirit of this law. India is also a part of it. 20

Also the General Assembly resolution of United Nation that established the Human Rights Council back in 2006 decided “that the Council shall be responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner”.21 Thus we can see that International Law on Human Rights are against the Honour killings and are in no mood to save it in the name of “cultural or traditional rights”.

Judicial Precedence In India:

Normally the cases of ‘honour killings’ were admitted inside the courts in India, in the forms of homicide or manslaughter. But after seeing the nature and the facts of the killings, courts were also used to follow the flimsy, so-called “honour” of the family in the name of which the heinous crime was done and the perpetrators usually were rescued. This we can observe from the judgement of Supreme Court, in which Justice VS Sirpurkar and Justice Deepak Verma said it wasn’t a rarest of rare case. “The murders were the outcome of a social issue like a marriage with a person of so-called lower caste. Such killings do not fall in the category of the rare of the rarest as the family of the girl has to face lot of taunts and humiliation in the society for the acts of the girl. However, time has come when we have to consider these social issues relevant while considering death sentence in such circumstances,” they said. In other words, the court classified the shameful caste-based ‘honour killings’ as different from other homicides in which the maximum punishment of death can be awarded. In this case the brother of the girl, who belonged to Uttar Pradesh, had killed five members including his brother-in-law who was a Scheduled Caste.22

This was the earlier tradition, but nowadays from the various judgements of the courts we can say that now the ‘honour killings’ are not termed differently. Courts through their judgements had reiterated that killing anyone even in the name of ‘honour’ is the violation of the constitution of India and anyone going contrary to the constitution will be punished. This we can see from the following cases.

In a landmark judgment, in March 2010, the Karnal District Court ordered the execution of the five perpetrators in an ‘honour killing’ case of Manoj & Babli, while giving a life sentence to the khap (local caste-based council) head who ordered the killings of Manoj Banwala (23) and Babli (19), two members of the same clan who eloped and married in June 2007 and later their mutilated bodies were found a week later from an irrigation canal. In her verdict, district judge Vani Gopal Sharma stated, "This court has gone through sleepless nights and tried to put itself in the shoes of the offenders .Khap panchayats have functioned contrary to the constitution, ridiculed it and have become a law unto themselves”. The case was both the first court judgement convicting khap panchayats and the first capital punishment verdict in an honour killing case in India. The Indian media and legal experts hailed it as a "landmark judgement". Also, few honour killing cases go to court, and this is the first case in which the groom's family in an honour killing filed the case. 23

International Laws Regarding Honour Killing:

"Honour killings" are a recognized form of violence against women in international human rights law because they violate women's rights to life and security of the person. International law obligates states to protect women from gender-based violence, including by family members, and to disqualify "honour" as a legal defence for acts of violence against women. 24. ‘Honour killings’ are an extreme and brutal abuse of human rights, violating the most basic of human rights—the right to life—as well as every other article in the Universal declaration of Human Rights (1948). The presence of laws that treat ‘honour killings’ leniently is also a brazen disregard of the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights (1966), protecting individuals against the use of the death penalty except for the most serious of crimes. ‘Honour killings’ also violate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979).

Article 1 of the Convention states that“For the present Convention, the term ‘discrimination against women’ shall mean any distinction, exclusion, or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on the basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

Article 2 states that “States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake:

(c) To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination;

(f) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women;

(g) To repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.”

This UN charter has been signed by 185 countries world wide - over ninety percent of the members of the United Nations – including most countries where ‘honour killing’ occurs. ‘Honour killings’ violate both the wording and the spirit of this law. India is also a part of it.25

Also the General Assembly resolution of United Nation that established the Human Rights Council back in 2006 decided “that the Council shall be responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner”.26 Thus we can see that International Law on Human Rights are against the Honour killings and are in no mood to save it in the name of“ cultural or traditional rights”.

Honour Killing: Violation of Right:

Honour Killings are homicide and murder which are serious crimes under the Indian Penal Code. It also violates Articles 14, 15 (1) & (3) 19, 21 and 39(f) of the Constitution of India. It is against the various International Commitment the Government of India has made in the “United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women” (CEDAW) of which India is a signatory and has also ratified the convention. It is also against the spirit of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Conclusion:
As already declared by the honorable court that there is nothing honorable in honor killing. Moreover this is the direct violation of human rights of a person who by virtue of being a human have the basic birth right of right to live. And in cases of honor killings violation of the right by the very family member and in most cases by the father or by the real brother only because of they don't allow their daughter or female member to marry according to her will. This is the offence of murder by the members of family and direct violation of fundamental human rights.

‘Honor’ killings have become commonplace in many parts of the country, particularly in Haryana, western U.P., and Rajasthan. Often young couples who fall in love have to seek shelter in the police lines or protection homes, to avoid the wrath of kangaroo courts. We have held in Lata Singh’s case(26(1) that there is nothing ‘honourable’ in ‘honour’ killings, and they are nothing but barbaric and brutal murders by bigoted, persons with feudal minds. In our opinion honour killings, for whatever reason, come within the category of rarest of rare cases deserving death punishment. It is time to stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices which are a slur on our nation. This is necessary as a deterrent for such outrageous, uncivilized behavior. All persons who are planning to perpetrate ‘honour’ killings should know that the gallows await them.27
********************
References:
1. Gurdip Singh, V.K. Ahuja, Human Rights in 21st century .Changing Dimensions Editor. Honour Killing Denials of Women's Human Rights' 239 (Sudershan Verma)
2 .http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-2417086620, September 2013 Last updated at 09:36 GMT
2 "Robert Fisk: The crimewave that shames the world". London:The Independent.Retrieved 8 September 2010.
3. Afghan couple stoned to death – Central & South Asia. Al Jazeera English (2010-08- 16. Retrieved on 2011-10-01.
4. Teen Lovers killed in India Honor Killing. LiveLeak.com
5. (Swedish) "Fadimes minnesfond". fadimesminne.nu. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
6. Suzanne Ruggi. "Commodifying Honor in Female Sexuality: Honor Killings in
Palestine". Middle East Research and Information Project. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
7. Human Rights in 21st century .Changing Dimensions Editor Gurdip Singh, V.K. Ahuja.Honour Killing Denials of Women's Human Rights' p 240(Sudershan Verma)
8. Matthew A. Goldstein (September 2002 (vol. 21, no. 2: p. 29)). "The biological roots of heat-of-passion crimes and honor killings". Politics and the Life Sciences. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
9. Umm Rashid. "Honor Crimes and Muslims". Retrieved 2011-11-28.
10. "Working towards the elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour" (PDF). Office of the United Nations Hi h Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
11. Honour killing in India. English.Samaylive.com (2010-06-23). Retrieved on 2011-10- 01 .
12. In dian village proud after double "honour killing". Reuters. May 16, 2008
13. Eight beheaded in Indian 'honor killing'. United Press International. February 12, 2009.
14. Father kills daughter in "honour killing" in western India. Monsters and Critics (2008- 06-14). Retrieved on 2011-10-01.
15. "Bill in Parliament to curb honor killing: Moily". English.samaylive.com. 2010-06- 23.Retrieved 2012-10-01. 16. Beena Sarwar. Pakistan: No compromise on murder. 2004-10-17.
17. Altstein, Howard;Simon, Rita James (2003). Global perspectives on social issues: marriage and divorce. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books. p.11. ISBN 0-7391-05884.
18. "Abu-Ghanem women speak out against serial 'honor killings'". Haaretz. Retrieved 2007-02-23.
18 (1) Robert Fisk (7 September 2010). "Robert Fisk: The crime wave that shames the world". London: The Independent. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
19. Teen Lovers killed in India Honor Killing. LiveLeak.com
20. Swedish)"Fadimes minnesfond". fadimesminne.nu. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
21. Suzanne Ruggi. "Commodifying Honor in Female Sexuality: Honor Killings in Palestine". Middle East Research and Information Project. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
22. "Broken bodies, shattered minds: Torture and ill-treatment of women". Amnesty International. Retrieved 2001-03-06.
23. Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. "Cultural Relativism and Universal Rights". Retrieved 2011-12-02.
24. Teen Lovers killed in India Honor Killing. LiveLeak.com
25. Swedish)"Fadimes minnesfond". fadimesminne.nu. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
26. Suzanne Ruggi. "Co modifying Honour in Female Sexuality: Honour Killings in Palestine". Middle East Research and Information Project. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 26(1).Lata Singh vs state of up & another on 7 July ,2011
27. Bhagwan Dass vs. State (NCT) of Delhi (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1117 OF 2011) @ SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL.) NO.1208 OF 2011 .The 3 June episode of Satyamev Jayate (TV show) discussed this incident along with other cases in the episode.State of Punjab vs. Jagtar Singh & ors on 26 July, 2011

 

 Author: Rashmi and Urmila Phd. Research Scholars, Kurukshetra University Kurukshetra (Haryana)




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