An honor 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 dishonor upon the family or community.
The perceived dishonor is normally the result of one of the following behaviors, or the suspicion of such behaviors: 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.
The United Nations estimate for the number of honor killings in the world is 5000 per year. Many women’s groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia suspect that more than 20,000 women are honor killed in the world each year.
Human Rights Watch defines “honor killings” as follows:
Honor killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, 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.
Men can also be the victims of honor killings by members of the family of a woman with whom they are perceived to have an inappropriate relationship. The loose term “honor killing” applies to killing of both men and women in cultures that practice it.
Some women who bridge social divides, publicly engage other communities, or adopt some of the customs or the religion of an outside group may be attacked. In countries that receive immigrants, some otherwise low-status immigrant men and boys have asserted their dominant patriarchal status by inflicting honor killings on women family members who have participated in public life, for example, in feminist and integration politics.
Du’a Khalil Aswad (دعاء خليل أسود) April 7, 2007) was a 17-year-old Iraqi Kurd of the Yazidi faith who was stoned to death in an honor killing.
Sharif Kanaana, professor of anthropology at Bir zeit University, says that honor 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 behavior. What’s behind it is the issue of fertility, or reproductive power.
An Amnesty International statement adds:
The regime of honour is unforgiving: women on whom suspicion has fallen are not given an opportunity to defend themselves, and family members have no socially acceptable alternative but to remove the stain on their honour by attacking the woman.
Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, an anthropology professor at Rhode Island College, explains how honor killings can be viewed in cultural relativist terms. She writes that the act, or even alleged act, of any female sexual misconduct, upsets moral order for the culture of interest and bloodshed is the only way to remove any shame brought about by the actions and restore social equilibrium.
Changing cultural and economic status of women has also been used to explain the occurrences of honor killings. Women in largely patriarchal cultures who have gained economic independence from their families go against their male-dominated culture. Some researchers argue that the shift towards greater responsibility for women and less for their fathers may cause their male family members to act in oppressive and sometimes violent manners in order to regain authority.
Shafilea Iftikhar Ahmed (14 July 1986 – 11 September 2003) was a 17-year-old British Pakistani girl from Great Sankey, Warrington, Cheshire, who was murdered by her parents
This change of culture can also be seen to have an effect in Western cultures such as Britain where honor killings often arise from women seeking greater independence and adopting seemingly Western values. For women who trace their ancestry back to the Middle East or South Asia, wearing clothes that are considered Western, having a boyfriend, or refusing to accept an arranged marriage are all offenses that can and have led to an honor killing.
Cultural implications can often be seen in public and private views of honor killings. In some cultures, honor killings are considered less serious than other murders simply because they arise from long-standing cultural traditions and are thus deemed appropriate or justifiable. Additionally, according to a poll done by the BBC’s Asian network, 1 in 10 of the 500 Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims surveyed said they would condone any murder of someone who threatened their family’s honor.
The lawyer and human rights activist Hina Jilani says, “The right to life of women in Pakistan is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions.”
Nighat Taufeeq of the women’s resource center Shirkatgah (Lahore, Pakistan) says: “It is an unholy alliance that works against women: the killers take pride in what they have done, the tribal leaders condone the act and protect the killers and the police connive the cover-up.”
A July 2008 Turkish study by a team from Dicle University on honor killings in the Southeastern Anatolia Region, the predominantly Kurdish area of Turkey, has so far shown that little if any social stigma is attached to honor killing. It also comments that the practice is not related to a feudal societal structure, “there are also perpetrators who are well-educated university graduates. Of all those surveyed, 60 percent are either high school or university graduates or at the very least, literate.”
Fareena Alam, editor of a Muslim magazine, writes that honor killings which arise in Western cultures such as Britain are a tactic for immigration families to cope with the alienating consequences of urbanization. Alam argues that immigrants remain close to the home culture and their relatives because it provides a safety net. She writes that,
Arash Ghorbani-Zarin (1985–2004) was an Iranian student at Oxford Brookes University who was murdered by the brothers of his girlfriend, Manna Begum in a case of honour killing
“In villages “back home”, a man’s sphere of control was broader, with a large support system. In our cities full of strangers, there is virtually no control over who one’s family members sit, talk or work with.”
Alam argues that it is thus the attempt to regain control and the feelings of alienation that ultimately leads to an honor killing.
Relation to homosexuality
There is some evidence that homosexuality can also be perceived as grounds for honor killing by relatives. In one case, a gay Jordanian man was shot and wounded by his brother. In another case, a homosexual Turkish student, Ahmet Yildiz, was shot outside a cafe and later died in hospital. Sociologists have called this Turkey’s first publicized gay honor killing.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees state that “claims made by LGBT persons often reveal exposure to physical and sexual violence, extended periods of detention, medical abuse, threat of execution and honour killing.”
In the country of Brazil, honor killings show up mostly within rural regions but also in the metropolis. Non-heterosexual children, especially boys or transgirls, can be killed if their sexuality is disclosed. The act of honor killings in Brazil has roots in Latin America’s version of machismo. However, it is more common for homosexual individuals to suffer some psychological and physical abuse without deadly consequences, such as being driven from their homes or not being accepted, in varying degrees. The first time a non-heterosexual Brazilian suffers homophobia, biphobia or transphobia tends to be within the family among all social groups. Feminist groups explain this observance by the characterization of the dominant societal attitudes in Brazil as deeply sexist and homophobic, documenting the Brazilian culture as the reason for an abnormal number—when compared to more developed countries—of homosexual youth suffering bullying or committing suicide. There are a number of homophobic extermination gangs even in regions where far-right and white supremacist groups are unimaginable. Brazil is already in second place of this kind of movement in Latin America after Argentina. Since this kind of violence, which is usually motivated by extremist ideologies, appears to have come with great strength and very quickly to the country, homophobic extermination groups may have originated in an extreme homophobic culture native to Brazilian society.
Anooshe Sediq Ghulam, a 22-year-old Afghan refugee in Norway, was killed by her husband, Afghani Nasruddin Shamsi, in an “honor killing”.
Widney Brown, the advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, said that the practice “goes across cultures and across religions.” Human rights advocates have compared “honor killing” to “crimes of passion” in Latin America (which are sometimes treated extremely leniently) and also to the killing of women for lack of dowry in India. Honor crimes occur in societies where there is an interplay between discriminatory traditions of justice and statutory law. In some countries, this discrimination is exacerbated by the inclusion of Shari’a, Islamic law, or the concept of zina (sex outside of marriage).
Tahira Shaid Khan, a professor of women’s issues at Aga Khan University, notes that there is nothing in the Qur’an that permits or sanctions honor killings. Khan instead blames it on attitudes (across different classes, ethnic and religious groups) that view women as property with no rights of their own as the motivation for honor killings. Khan also argues that this view results in violence against women and their being turned “into a commodity which can be exchanged, bought and sold.”
Some note how religious meaning attached to terms such as virginity and bride-price help to reinforce social traditions and the control of a woman’s body and their sexuality.
Several different evolutionary psychology explanations have been proposed for honor killings. Honor killings, as well as the related concept of crime of passion due to adultery, have occurred and have to some degree been seen as justified in many different and separated cultures. This may be explained that men, unlike women, have difficulty knowing with certainty that they are the biological parents of the children they spend considerable resources on in a long-term relationship. Sexual jealousy is argued to have evolved in order to reduce the risk of children not being biologically related and to be relatively stronger in men. Men may use a variety of strategies, including physical violence, in order to prevent adultery. Actual killings have been argued to be maladaptive by-products of this since by killing the woman she cannot contribute further to the man’s reproductive success. However, it has also been argued that the such killings may be adaptive by being a warning to other wives, restoring lost social status, and preventing complications from possibly not genetically related children being born. These adaptive explanations have been criticized for less extreme violence possibly achieving the same thing or involving unlikely complex calculations. It has also been pointed out that to argue that society must morally accept and be structured according to what is claimed to be natural, such as by legal exceptions for honor killings or crimes of passion, is an example of the naturalistic fallacy.
Leila Hussein (c. 1967 – May 17, 2008) was an Iraqi woman living in Basra who came to public attention in March 2008, when her husband killed their teenage daughter — reportedly with the approval of local police — because she had formed a friendship with a British soldier stationed in the city.
Honor killings in history
As noted by Christian Arab writer, Norma Khouri, honor 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.C.”
Matthew A. Goldstein, J.D. (Arizona), has 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”.
The origin of honor killings and the control of women is evidenced throughout history in the culture and tradition of many regions. The Roman law of pater familias 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 honor 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 dishonorable to the point of destroying a woman’s life and reputation, and honor 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.
Among the Amerindian Aztecs and Incas, adultery was punishable by death.
Qays bin Asim, ancient leader of Banu Tamim is credited by some historians as the first to kill children on the basis of honor. It is recorded that he murdered all of his daughters to prevent them from ever causing him any kind of dishonor.
After learning that Palestina had taken a part-time job without her parents’ permission Sixteen-year-old Palestina (Tina) Isa was murdered by her father, Zein Isa, with the aid of her mother,
Honor killing by region
According to the UN in 2002:
The report of the Special Rapporteur… concerning cultural practices in the family that are violent towards women (E/CN.4/2002/83), indicated that honour killings had been reported in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco,Pakistan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Yemen, and other Mediterranean and Persian Gulf countries, and that they had also taken place in western countries such as France, Germany Canada the USA and the United Kingdom, within immigrant communities.
In addition, the UN Commission on Human Rights report honor killings in the nations of Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, India, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda.
According to Widney Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, the practice of honor killing “goes across cultures and across religions.”
Ghazala Khan (1987 – 23 September 2005) was a Pakistani woman, who was shot and killed in Denmark by her brother after she had married against the will of the family.
In 2005 Der Spiegel reported: “In the past four months, six Muslim women living in Berlin have been killed by family members”. The article went on to cover the case of Hatun Sürücü, who was killed by her brother for not staying with the husband she was forced to marry, and of “living like a German”. Precise statistics on how many women die every year in such honor killings are hard to come by, as many crimes are never reported, said Myria Boehmecke of theTuebingen-based women’s group Terre des Femmes. The group tries to protect Muslim girls and women from oppressive families. The Turkish women’s organization Papatya has documented 40 instances of honor killings in Germany since 1996. Hatun Sürücü’s brother was convicted of murder and jailed for nine years and three months by a German court in 2006. In March 2009, a Kurdish immigrant from Turkey, Gülsüm S., was killed for a relationship not in keeping with her family’s plan for an arranged marriage. In Sweden the 26-year-old Kurdish woman Fadime Şahindal was killed by her father in 2002.
Every year in the United Kingdom (UK), officials estimate that at least a dozen women are victims of honor killings, almost exclusively within Asian and Middle Eastern families. Often cases cannot be resolved due to the unwillingness of family, relatives and communities to testify. A 2006 BBC poll for the Asian network in the UK found that one in ten of the 500 young Asians polled said that they could condone the killing of someone who dishonored their family. In the UK, in December 2005, Nazir Afzal, Director, west London, of Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, stated that the United Kingdom has seen “at least a dozen honour killings” between 2004 and 2005. While precise figures do not exist for the perpetrators’ cultural backgrounds, Diana Nammi of the UK’s Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation is reported to have said: “about two-thirds are Muslim. Yet they can also be Hindu and Sikh.”
a young British Kurdish woman killed in 2006 in South London on the orders of her family in a so-called honour killing
In 2010, Britain saw a 47% rise of honor-related crimes. Data from police agencies in the UK report 2283 cases in 2010, and an estimated of 500 more from jurisdictions that did not provide reports. These “honor-related crimes” also include house arrests and other parental punishments. Most of the attacks were conducted in cities that had high immigrant populations.
Another well-known case was Heshu Yones, stabbed to death by her Kurdish father in London in 2002 when her family heard a love song dedicated to her and suspected she had a boyfriend. Other examples include the killing of Tulay Goren, a Kurdish Shia Muslim girl who immigrated with her family from Turkey, and Samaira Nazir (Pakistani Muslim).
However, a lesser-known case is that of Gurmeet Singh Ubhi, a Sikh man who, in February 2011, was found guilty of the murder of his 24 year-old daughter, Amrit Kaur Ubhi in 2010. Mr. Ubhi was found to have murdered his daughter because he disapproved of her being ‘too westernised’. Likewise he also disapproved of the fact that she was dating a non-Sikh man. In 2011, Belgium held its first honor killing trial, in which four Pakistani family members were found guilty of killing their daughter and sibling, Sadia Sheikh.
The issue of honor killings has risen to prominence in Europe in recent years, prompting the need to address the occurrence of honor killings. The 2009 European Parliamentary Assembly noted this in their Resolution 1681 which noted the dire need to address honor crimes. The resolution stated that:
“On so-called ‘honor crimes,’ the Parliamentary Assembly notes that the problem, far from diminishing, has worsened, including in Europe. It mainly affects women, who are its most frequent victims, both in Europe and the rest of the world, especially in patriarchal and fundamentalist communities and societies. For this reason, it asked the Council of Europe member states to ‘draw up and put into effect national action plans to combat violence against women, including violence committed in the name of so-called ‘honor,’ if they have not already done so.”
Honour killings also affect gays in Europe. In 2008 a man had to flee from Turkey after his boyfriend was killed by his own father. In 2011, in Cerignola, Italy, a man stabbed his brother 19 times because his homosexuality was a “dishonour to the family”.
Samaira Nazir, 25, a graduate and recruitment consultant, was stabbed 18 times By her brother and 17-year-old cousin in a so-called honour killing for having a boyfriend.
In 2008 a woman was killed in Saudi Arabia by her father for “chatting” to a man on Facebook. The killing became public only when a Saudi cleric referred to the case, not to condemn it but to criticise Facebook for the strife it caused.
A June 2008 report by the Turkish Prime Ministry’s Human Rights Directorate said that in Istanbul alone there was one honor killing every week, and reported over 1,000 during the previous five years. It added that metropolitan cities were the location of many of these, due to growing Kurdish immigration to these cities from the East. In 2009 a Turkish news agency reported that a 2-day-old boy who was born out of wedlock had been killed for honor. The maternal grandmother of the infant, along with six other persons, including a doctor who had reportedly accepted a bribe to not report the birth, were arrested. The grandmother is suspected of fatally suffocating the infant. The child’s mother, 25, was also arrested; she stated that her family had made the decision to kill the child.
In 2010 a 16-year-old Kurdish girl was buried alive by relatives for befriending boys in Southeast Turkey; her corpse was found 40 days after she went missing. Ahmet Yildiz, 26, a Turkish physics student who represented his country at an international gay conference in the United States in 2008, was shot dead leaving a cafe in Istanbul. It is believed Yildiz was the victim of the country’s first gay honor killing.
There are no exact official numbers about honor killings of women in Lebanon; many honor killings are arranged to look like accidents, but the figure is believed to be 40 to 50 per year. A 2007 report by Amnesty International said that the Lebanese media in 2001 reported 2 or 3 honor killings per month in Lebanon, although the number is believed by lawyers to be higher. On 4 August 2011 the Lebanese parliament agreed by a majority to abolish Article 562, which for years had worked as an excuse for honor killing.
The Palestinian Authority, using a clause in the Jordanian penal code still in effect in the West Bank, exempts men from punishment for killing a female relative if she has brought dishonor to the family. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, promised to change the discriminatory law, but no action had been taken as of 2012. According to UNICEF, in 2000 two-thirds of all killings in the Palestinian territories were honor killings. The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights has reported 29 women were killed 2007-2010, whereas 13 women were killed in 2011 and 12 in the first seven months of 2012.
Aqsa “Axa” Parvez (April 22, 1991 – December 10, 2007) was the victim of an murder in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. During the murder trial, Superior Court Justice Bruce Durno acknowledged the slaying as an honour killing, stating, “that he found it “profoundly disturbing that a 16-year-old could be murdered by a father and brother for the purpose of saving family pride, for saving them from what they perceived as family embarrassment.””. Her brother, Waqas Parvez, had strangled her to death when Aqsa would not wear a hijab covering.
As many as 133 women were killed in the Iraqi city of Basra alone in 2006—79 for violation of “Islamic teachings” and 47 for honor killings, according to IRIN, the news branch of the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Amnesty International says that armed groups, not the government, also kill politically active women and those who did not follow a strict dress code, as well as women who are perceived as human rights defenders.
There were still “honor” killings in Jordan, considered one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East, in 2012. In Jordan there is relatively little sex discrimination compared to most other countries in the region, and women are permitted to vote, but men receive reduced sentences for killing their wives or female family members if they are deemed to have brought dishonor to their family. Families often get sons under the age of 18—legally minors—to commit honor killings; the juvenile law allows convicted minors to serve time in a juvenile detention center and be released with a clean criminal record at the age of 18. Rana Husseini, a leading journalist on the topic of honor killings, states that “under the existing law, people found guilty of committing honor killings often receive sentences as light as six months in prison”. According to UNICEF, there are an average of 23 honor killings per year in Jordan.
There has been public support in Jordan to amend Articles 340 and 98. In 1999 King Abdullah created a council to review the sex inequalities in the country. The Council returned with a recommendation to repeal Article 340. “[T]he cabinet approved the recommendation, the measure was presented to parliament twice in November 1999 and January 2000 and in both cases, though approved by the upper house, it failed to pass the elected lower house”. In 2001, after parliament was suspended, a number of temporary laws were created which were subject to parliamentary ratification. One of the amendments was that “husbands would no longer be exonerated for killing unfaithful wives, but instead the circumstances would be considered as evidence for mitigating punishments”. In the interest of sex equality, women were given the same reduction in punishment if found guilty of the crime. But parliament returned to session in 2003 and the new amendments were rejected by the lower house after two successful readings in the upper house.
A 17-year-old Iraqi Kurdish girl of the Yazidi faith was stoned to death in 2007, possibly because she was accused of wanting to convert to Islam. The 2007 Yazidi communities bombings may have been retaliations.
The Shafia Family murders took place on June 30, 2009 in Kingston, Ontario. Shafia sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammed, 50, were found dead inside a car that was discovered underwater in front of the northernmost Kingston Mills lock of the Rideau Canal on the same day.Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti were daughters of Mohammad Shafia, 58 and his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41. The couple also had a son Hamed, 20. Rona, who was herself infertile, was the first wife of Mohammad Shafia in their polygamous household.All four Killed By the Husband?father and his son
the eldest two daughters had boyfriends that the Father and brother did not approve of.
A 2007 study by Dr. Amin Muhammad and Dr. Sujay Patel of Memorial University, Canada, investigated how the practice of honor killings has been brought to Canada. The report explained that “[w]hen people come and settle in Canada they can bring their traditions and forcefully follow them. In some cultures, people feel some boundaries are never to be crossed, and if someone would violate those practices or go against it, then killing is justified to them.” The report noted that “In different cultures, they can get away without being punished—the courts actually sanction them under religious contexts”. The report also said that the people who commit these crimes are usually mentally ill, and that the mental health aspect is often ignored by Western observers because of a lack of understanding of the insufficiently developed state of mental healthcare in developing countries in which honor killings are prevalent.
Canada has been host to a number of high profile killings, including the murder of Kaur Sidhu , the double murder of Khatera Sadiqi and her fiance , and the Shafia family murders.
Honor killings have become such a pressing issue in Canada that the Canadian citizenship study guide mentions it specifically, saying, “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings’, female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.”
25-year-old Sandeela Kanwal—allegedly by her father, Chaudhry Rashid—was an “American Honor Killing.” Rashid is said to have strangled Kanwal to death with a bungee cord after she tried to end her arranged marriage.
A 2009 article by Phyllis Chesler in Middle East Quarterly argues that the United States is far behind Europe in acknowledging that honor killings are a special form of domestic violence, requiring special training and special programs to protect the young women and girls most likely to be the victim of such practices. The article suggests that the fear of being labeled “culturally insensitive” often prevents government officials in the United States and the media from identifying and accurately reporting these incidents as “honor killings” when they occur. Failing to accurately describe the problem makes it more difficult to develop public policies to address it.
The article reports that, although there are not many cases of honor killings within the United States, the overwhelming majority of honor killings are perpetrated by Muslims against Muslims (90% of honor killings known to have taken place in Europe and the United States from 1998 to 2008). In these documented cases the victims were murdered because they were believed to have acted in a way against the religion of the family. In every case, perpetrators view their victims as violating rules of religious conduct and act without remorse.
Sadia Sheikh left the family home to study after her shopkeeper parents tried to arrange a marriage with a cousin living in Pakistan she had never met.
Mudusar admitted before the jury of five women and seven men to killing his sister for the Family’s Honor while saying the rest of the family were not to blame. The court pronouncing the family members guilty for the shooting death of Sadia Sheikh in October 2007, the jury sentenced father Tarik Mahmood Sheikh to 25 years behind bars, mother Zahida Parveen Sariya to 20 years, brother Mudusar to 15 and sister Sariya to five years.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/family-jailed-for-honour-killing-of-sadia-20111213-1os65.html#ixzz2QMNJnjP6
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/family-jailed-for-honour-killing-of-sadia-20111213-1os65.html#ixzz2QMMyr91W
In Pakistan honor killings are known locally as karo-kari. An Amnesty International report noted “the failure of the authorities to prevent these killings by investigating and punishing the perpetrators.” Recent cases include that of three teenage girls who were buried alive after refusing arranged marriages. Another case was that of Taslim Khatoon Solangi, 17, of Hajna Shah village in Khairpur district, which was widely reported after her father, 57-year-old Gul Sher Solangi, publicized the case. He alleged his eight-months-pregnant daughter was tortured and killed on March 7 on the orders of her father-in-law, who accused her of carrying a child conceived out of wedlock. Statistically, honor killings have a high level of support in Pakistan’s rural society, despite widespread condemnation from human rights groups. In 2002 alone over 382 people, about 245 women and 137 men, became victims of honor killings in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Over the course of six years, more than 4,000 women have died as victims of honor killings in Pakistan from 1999 to 2004. In 2005 the average annual number of honor killings for the whole nation was stated to be more than 10,000 per year. According to women’s rights advocates, the concepts of women as property, and of honor, are so deeply entrenched in the social, political and economic fabric of Pakistan that the government mostly ignores the regular occurrences of women being killed and maimed by their families.” Frequently, women killed in honor killings are recorded as having committed suicide or died in accidents.
It is noted by sociologists that honor killings do not necessarily have to do with religion, but rather the cultures in different regions. Savitri Goonesekere qualifies this claim, saying that Islamic leaders in Pakistan use religious justifications for sanctioning honor killings.
Furthermore, most honor killings are encompassed by the 1990 Qisas and Diyat Ordinance, which permits the individual and his or her family to retain control over a crime, including the right to determine whether to report the crime, prosecute the offend, or demand diyat (or compensation). Since most honour killings are committed by a close relative, if and when the case reaches a court of law, the victim’s family may ‘pardon’ the murderer, or be pressured to acceptdiyat (financial compensation). The murderer then goes free. Once such a pardon has been secured, the state has no further writ on the matter although often the killers are relatives of the victim.
Honor 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, honor 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, honor 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.
Among Rajputs, marriages with members of other castes can provoke the killing of the married couple and immediate family members. This form of honor killing is attributed to Rajput culture and traditional views on the perceived “purity” of a lineage.
The Manoj-Babli honour killing case was the honour killing of Indian newly-weds Manoj Banwala and Babli in June 2007 and the successive court case which historically convicted defendants for an honour killing
The Indian state of Punjab has a large number of honor killings. According to data compiled by the Punjab Police, 34 honor killings were reported in the state between 2008 and 2010: 10 in 2008, 20 in 2009, and four in 2010.
Haryana is also notorious for incidents of honor killing, mainly in the upper caste of society, among rajputs and jaats. Bhagalpur in the eastern Indian state of Bihar has also been notorious for honor killings. 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. In May 2008, Jayvirsingh Bhadodiya shot his daughter Vandana Bhadodiya and struck her on the head with an axe. In June 2010 some incidents were reported even from Delhi.
The Pakistan-born founder of a Muslim-oriented New York television station was convicted on Monday of beheading his wife in 2009 in the studio the couple had opened to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.In an Honor Killing.
In a landmark judgment in March 2010, Karnal district court ordered the execution of five perpetrators of an honor killing in Kaithal, and imprisoning for life the khap (local caste-based council) chief who ordered the killings of Manoj Banwala and Babli , a man and woman of the same clan who eloped and married in June 2007. Despite having been given police protection on court orders, they were kidnapped; their mutilated bodies were found a week later in an irrigation canal.
In 1990 the National Commission for Women set up a statutory body in order to address the issues of honor 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 honor killings in rural areas of North India. According to Pakistani activists Hina Jilani and Eman M. Ahmed, Indian women are considerably better protected against honor killings by Indian law and government than Pakistani women, and they have suggested that governments of countries affected by honor killings use Indian law as a model in order to prevent honor killings in their respective societies.
In June 2010, scrutinizing the increasing number of honor killings, the Supreme Court of India issued notices to the Central Government and six states including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to take preventive measures against honor killings.
Alarmed by the rise of honor killings, the Government planned to bring a bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament July 2010 to provide for deterrent punishment for ‘honor’ killings.
In June 2012, a man chopped off his 20-year-old daughter’s head with a sword in Rajasthan after learning that she was dating men. According to police officer, “Omkar Singh told the police that his daughter Manju had relations with several men. He had asked her to mend her ways several times in the past. However, she did not pay heed. Out of pure rage, he chopped off her head with the sword.”
The most common social consequence for victims of sexual violence is isolation from their families and communities. Raped women are seen as impure, frequently leading to their being abandoned by their husbands or having trouble marrying. The most extreme versions of this stigmatization can lead to “honor killings” in which the victims of sexual violence are murdered by their family or community due to the belief that they have brought them shame and dishonor. 30% of women and 22% of men admit to being raped. Young women and girls who are cast outside of their homes, or leave due to shame will most likely become even more vulnerable to further abuse.
In national legal codes
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 honor killings. However, in many places, adultery and other “immoral” sexual behaviors 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”; honor 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 honor killings as acceptable, and 4% in Paris (less than French public), 1% in Berlin and 3% in London saw crimes of passion as acceptable .
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.
Various laws that allow full or partial defenses, or otherwise are interpreted to create the possibility of shorter sentences include:
Haiti: Article 269 of the penal code states “in the case of adultery as provided for in Article 284, the murder by a husband of his wife and/or her partner, immediately upon discovering them in flagrante delicto in the conjugal abode, is to be pardoned.”
Jordan: Part of article 340 of the Penal Code states that “he who discovers his wife or one of his female relatives committing adultery and kills, wounds, or injures one of them, is exempted from any penalty.” This has twice been put forward for cancellation by the government, but was retained by the Lower House of the Parliament, in 2003: a year in which at least seven honor killings took place. Article 98 of the Penal Code is often cited alongside Article 340 in cases of honor killings. “Article 98 stipulates that a reduced sentence is applied to a person who kills another person in a ‘fit of fury'”.
Morocco: Revisions to Morocco’s criminal code in 2003 helped improve women’s legal status by eliminating unequal sentencing in adultery cases. Article 418 of the penal code granted extenuating circumstances to a husband who kills, injures, or beats his wife or her partner, or both, when catching them in flagrante delicto while committing adultery. While this article has not been repealed, the penalty for committing this crime is at least now the same for both genders.
In Brazil, an explicit defense to murder in case of adultery has never been part of the criminal code, but a defense of “honor” (not part of the criminal code) has been widely used by lawyers in such cases to obtain acquittals. Although this defense has been generally rejected in modern parts of the country (such as big cities) since the 1950s, it has been very successful in the interior of the country. In 1991 Brazil’s Supreme Court explicitly rejected the “honour” defense as having no basis in Brazilian law.
Countries where honor killing is not legal but is known to occur include:
Syria: In 2009, Article 548 of the Syrian Law code was amended. Beforehand, the article waived any punishment for males who committed murder on a female family member for inappropriate sex acts. Article 548 states that “He who catches his wife or one of his ascendants, descendants or sister committing adultery (flagrante delicto) or illegitimate sexual acts with another and he killed or injured one or both of them benefits from a reduced penalty, that should not be less than 2 years in prison in case of a killing.” Article 192 states that a judge may opt for reduced punishments (such as short-term imprisonment) if the killing was done with an honorable intent. In addition to this, Article 242 says that a judge may reduce a sentence for murders that were done in rage and caused by an illegal act committed by the victim.
Italy: Article 133 and 62 of the Italian Penal Code offer the possibility of reduced sentencing and punishment for crimes that occur within the offender’s cultural norms. In the case of honor killings and other honor related crimes, these articles could possibly allow for honor killing offenders to ask a reduced punishment. Italian Parliament member Souad Sbai suggested in 2010 that Italy amend these articles so that honor killings do not have extra protection under Italian law.
Turkey: In Turkey, persons found guilty of this crime are sentenced to life in prison. There are well documented cases, where Turkish courts have sentenced whole families to life imprisonment for an honor killing. The most recent was on January 13, 2009, where a Turkish Court sentenced five members of the same Kurdish family to life imprisonment for the honor killing of Naile Erdas, 16, who got pregnant as a result of rape.
Pakistan: Honor killings are known as karo kari (Sindhi: ڪارو ڪاري) (Urdu: کاروکاری). The practice is supposed to be prosecuted under ordinary killing, but in practice police and prosecutors often ignore it. Often a man must simply claim the killing was for his honor and he will go free. Nilofar Bakhtiar, advisor to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, stated that in 2003, as many as 1,261 women were killed in honor killings. The Hudood Ordinances of Pakistan, enacted in 1979 by then ruler General Zia-ul-Haq, created laws that realigned Pakistani rule with Islamic law. The law had the effect of reducing the legal protections for women, especially regarding sex outside of the marriage. Women who made accusations of rape, after this law, were required to provide four male witnesses. If unable to do this, the alleged rape could not be prosecuted in the courts. Because the woman had admitted to sex outside of marriage, however, she could be punished for having sex outside of the marriage, a punishment that ranged from stoning to public lashing. This law made it that much more risky for women to come forward with accusations of rape. In 2006, the Women’s Protection Bill amended these Hudood Ordinances by removing four male witnesses as a requirement for rape allegations. On December 8, 2004, under international and domestic pressure, Pakistan enacted a law that made honor killings punishable by a prison term of seven years, or by the death penalty in the most extreme cases. Women’s rights organizations were, however, wary of this law as it stops short of outlawing the practice of allowing killers to buy their freedom by paying compensation to the victim’s relatives. Women’s rights groups claimed that in most cases it is the victim’s immediate relatives who are the killers, so inherently the new law is just whitewash. It did not alter the provisions whereby the accused could negotiate pardon with the victim’s family under the Islamic provisions. In March 2005, the Pakistani parliament rejected a bill which sought to strengthen the law against the practice of honor killing. However, the bill was brought up again, and in November 2006, it passed. It is doubtful whether or not the law would actually help women.
Egypt: A number of studies on honor crimes by The Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, includes one which reports on Egypt’s legal system, noting a gender bias in favor of men in general, and notably article 17 of the Penal Code: judicial discretion to allow reduced punishment in certain circumstance, often used in honor killings case.
On New Year’s Day 2008, two Texas teenagers of Egyptian Origin Amina and Sarah Said were shot dead, their bloodied bodies left in a taxi cab. The alleged shooter: their father Yaser Said after he learned they had boyfriends, non-Muslim boyfriends
Support and sanction
Actions of Pakistani police officers and judges (particularly at the lower level of the judiciary ) have, in the past, seemed to support the act of honor killings in the name of family honor. Police enforcement, in situations of admitted murder, do not always take action against the perpetrator. Also, judges in Pakistan (particularly at the lower level of the judiciary ), rather than ruling cases with gender equality in mind, also seem to reinforce inequality and in some cases sanction the murder of women considered dishonorable. Often, a suspected honor killing never even reaches court, but in cases where they do, the alleged killer is often not charged or is given a reduced sentence of three to four years in jail. In a case study of 150 honor killings, the proceeding judges rejected only eight of claims that the women were killed for honor. The rest were sentenced lightly. In many cases in Pakistan, one of the reasons honor killing cases never make it to the courts, is because, according to some lawyers and women’s right activists, Pakistani law enforcement do not get involved. Under the encouragement of the killer, police often declare the killing as a domestic case that warrants no involvement. In other cases, the women and victims are too afraid to speak up or press charges. Police officials, however, claim that these cases are never brought to them, or are not major enough to be pursued on a large scale. The general indifference to the issue of honour killing within Pakistan is due to a deep-rooted gender bias in law, the police force, and the judiciary. In its report, “Pakistan: Honor Killings of Girls and Women”, published in September 1999, Amnesty International criticized governmental indifference and called for state responsibility in protecting human rights of female victims. To elaborate, Amnesty strongly requested the Government of Pakistan to take 1) legal, 2) preventive, and 3) protective measures. First of all, legal measures refer to a modification of the government’s criminal laws to guarantee equal legal protection of females. On top of that, Amnesty insisted the government to assure legal access for the victims of crime in the name of honor. When it comes to preventive measures, Amnesty underlined the critical need to promote public awareness through the means of media, education, and public announcements. Finally, protective measures include ensuring a safe environment for activists, lawyers, and women’s group to facilitate eradication of honor killings. Also, Amnesty argued for the expansion of victim support services such as shelters.
Kremlin-appointed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said that honor killings were perpetrated on those who deserved to die. He said that those who are killed have “loose morals” and are rightfully shot by relatives in honor killings. He did not vilify women alone but added that “If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed.”
In 2007, a famous Norwegian Supreme Court advocate stated that he wanted the punishment for the killing from 17 years in prison to 15 years in the case of honor killings practiced in Norway. He stated that the Norwegian public did not understand other cultures who practiced honor killings, or understand their thinking, and that Norwegian culture “is self-righteous”.
In 2008, Israr Ullah Zehri, a Pakistani politician in Balochistan, defended the honor killings of five women belonging to the Umrani tribe by a relative of a local Umrani politician. Zehri defended the killings in Parliament and asked his fellow legislators not to make a fuss about the incident. He said, “These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them. Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid.”
Nilofar Bakhtiar, Minister for Tourism and Advisor to Pakistan Prime Minister on Women’s Affairs, who had struggled against the honor killing in Pakistan, resigned in April 2007 after the clerics accused her of bringing shame to Pakistan by para-jumping with a male and hugging him after his speech