Murder in the Name of Honour

Topics: Honor killing, Domestic violence, Women's rights Pages: 18 (5945 words) Published: March 16, 2013
“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” -Gloria Steinem Discussing honour killings contrary to the accepted social wisdom is taboo. Across societies, we are expected to uphold the dominant social narrative, whether it is tolerance or moral outrage.  In both cases, women are the losers when social forces use spin to frame the narrative of gender violence to suit political goals, including maintaining the status quo. Introduction

An honor killing or honor killing (also called a customary killing) is the murder of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the perpetrators (and potentially the wider community) that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or community. Honor killings are directed mostly against women and girls. The perceived dishonor is normally the result of one of the following behaviors, or the suspicion of such behaviors: a. dressing in a manner unacceptable to the family or community, b. wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice, c. engaging in heterosexual sexual acts outside marriage, or even due to a non-sexual relationship perceived as inappropriate, and d. engaging in homosexual acts. Women and girls are killed at a much higher rate than men.

Honor killing is more prevalent where a member of a lower class (social status or wealth status) marries a person of relatively higher class (high social or wealth status). The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the annual worldwide total of honor-killing victims may be as high as 5,000.

Honor killings in History

Honor killings and punishments have been documented over centuries among a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups throughout the world. For example, the Code of Hammurabi of Babylon which was issued in 1790 BC penalized adulterous couples by drowning. The 1075 BC Assyrian law of the civilization of Mesopotamia stated that the father of a defiled virgin shall punish his daughter however he saw fit.

In the Bible, the Book of Genesis, Judah demanded for the burning of his daughter-in-law Tamar, whom he was told to be pregnant via harlotry; this view is then supported in Book of Leviticus. Matthew Goldstein also noted that honor 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".

In the modern age, the term was first used by a Dutch scholar of Turkish society, Ane Nauta in 1978. Nauta sought a term that could be used in contradistinction to the blood feud, with which honor killings should not be confused. Human Rights Watch defines "honor killings" as follows: Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor 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 "dishonors" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.

The loose term honor killing applies to killing of both males and females in cultures that practice it. For example, during the year 2002 in Pakistan, it is estimated that 245 women and 137 men were killed in the name of Karo-kari in Sindh. These killings target women and men who choose to have relationships outside of their family's tribal affiliation and/or religious community.

Some women who bridge social divides, publicly engage other communities, or adopt some of the customs or the religion of an outside group may thus also be attacked. In countries that receive immigration, some otherwise low-status immigrant men and boys have asserted their...
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