India is considering new legislation to deal specifically with honour killings and provide stringent punishments to curb a rise in cases, a home ministry official said Tuesday.
There are no official figures for the number of honour murders in India, but social activists say hundreds of young men and women die every year -- especially in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh states.
Most are either driven to suicide or are killed by family members for daring to marry outside their caste and bringing "dishonour" on their communities.
"We are seriously considering amending the Indian Penal Code to make honour killing a separate and distinct offence and provide deterrent punishment," the home ministry official told AFP.
The Times of India newspaper said Tuesday that the move had gathered steam after India's top legal officer G.E. Vahanvati advised the government legislative intervention was necessary.
The killings, carried out by family members or outraged villagers, often have the tacit approval of village councils that wield considerable political clout.