The Supreme Court of India has ordered police to take “stern action” in so-called “honor killing” cases. The court termed honor killing as “an act of barbarism,” the Pakistan Christian Post reported on Monday, July 10.

“This is a huge verdict,” Gospel for Asia President K.P. Yohannan said in response. “I am so grateful. It is a shame that in a country like India, in the 21st century, these horrible killings are still practiced and even approved by its communities. They are nothing less than barbaric.”

The victims of “honor killing” have been predominately women accused of shaming their families by committing adultery or divorce or having relationships their families disapprove of—including marrying outside their caste. Family members “cleanse themselves” of this violation to their honor by murdering the offender.

“God made us without caste, creed or religion,” Yohannan said. “You can see how these ‘honor killings’ show the mindset toward Dalits—that marrying a lower-caste person brings dishonor to the family as much as adultery or other crimes. We want these people to know they are valuable, not only because of rulings like this, but because God loves them as much as any other person on earth. But I am very happy about this ruling.”

Many of the inter-caste marriage killings are ordered by caste panchayats—local ruling bodies within the caste. As the caste system was officially outlawed in 1949, such killings are obviously illegal.

“In fact, it is dividing the nation at a time when we have to be united to face the challenges before the nation,” the Navhind Times reported, quoting the justices. “Hence, inter-caste marriages are in fact in the national interest as they will result in destroying the caste-system.”

In one instance, a lower-caste woman was raped and killed by a group of Yadav men because her son married a woman belonging to the higher Yadav caste.

While the practice originated in Muslim areas and is condoned by Sharia law, Widney Brown of Human Rights Watch says the practice “goes across cultures and across religions.” In some areas of India, honor killings account for 10 percent of all murders, according to The Telegraph of India.

“In Muzaffarnagar, the worst-affected district of Uttar Pradesh, 13 cases of honor killings were reported in the first nine months of 2003,” OneWorld.net reported—and many of these crimes go unreported.

But the Indian court’s ruling might change that.

“There is nothing honorable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by persons … who deserve harsh punishment,” one of the justices stated.

“If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriages, the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or daughter. But they cannot harass the person who undergoes such intercaste or inter-religious marriage.”

“Gospel for Asia has been sharing the love of Jesus among the Dalits for more than 27 years, and today thousands are leaving the caste system to receive Christ,” Dr. Yohannan noted.