Honor Killings

Human rights violations against women have, for too long, been denied the
attention and concern of international organizations, national governments,
traditional human rights groups and the press. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions
of girls and women around the world continue to endure debilitating and often
fatal human rights abuses. These are only a few instances of abuse which occur
every single day all around the world. Human rights violations against women
must be documented, publicized and stopped.

 Brazil: A man who confessed to stabbing his wife and her lover
to death is for the second time acquitted of murder by an all-male jury. The
acquittal is based on the argument that he acted in legitimate defense of his
wronged honor.

 India: A 10-year-old girl is rescued by a flight attendant who
noticed her crying. Her father has sold her to the 60-year-old man sitting next
to her for the equivalent of $240US.

 Ireland: A 14-year-old girl, raped by her best friend’s
father, learns she is pregnant. She is prohibited from travelling to England
where abortion is legal. Only when she indicates she will commit suicide if
forced to carry the pregnancy to term does the Supreme Court allow her to

 Kenya: At a boarding school, 300 boys attack the girls’
dormitory. Seventy-one girls are raped. Nineteen are trampled to death in the
stampede to escape. The school’s vice principal remarks, “The boys never
meant any harm against the girls. They just wanted to rape.”

 United States: A 51-year-old woman is stabbed 19 times and
killed by her former boyfriend as she waits inside a courthouse to extend an
order of protection. Twice before he had been charged with harassment. Both
times the charges were dropped by the courts. (www.equalitynow.com)

One of the most horrific acts of abuse towards women is known as honor
killings. In various countries throughout the world, particularly in the Middle
East and parts of South Asia, women who bring dishonor to their families because
of sexual indiscretions or even rape are forced to pay a terrible price at the
hands of male family members. This brutal act is most commonly found among the
Islamic cultures. They use their religion as an excuse for their animalistic,
indecent behavior. However, Islam recognizes and celebrates the inherent dignity
bestowed by God upon all human beings regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or
religion. The Koran, the Muslim holy book, is explicit in its emphasis on the
equality of women and men before God. “And their Lord has accepted of them and
answered them, “Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, whether
male or female, you are members, one of another…” (Koran, 3:195)

In the Arab culture, family status is largely dependent upon its honor, much
of which is determined by the respectability of its daughters, who can damage it
irreparably by the perceived misuse of their sexuality. Examples cited by
women\'s organizations (MLW.com) show that women are punished, even murdered, on
the suspicion of having been involved in a sexual relationship. Victims of rape
have met the same fate. Maintaining honor is deemed a woman\'s responsibility,
whether or not she has been educated about sex or consented to the act.

According to Sharif Kanaana, professor of anthropology at Birzeit University
in Palestine, the ‘code’ of honor killings “prevents women from having
sexual freedom or the right to use their sexual powers the way they want.” (Kanaana
44) The honor of a family is very dependent on a woman’s virginity. In the
Arab culture, it is believed that a woman’s virginity is the property of the
men around her, first her father, and later a gift to her husband. In this
context, a woman’s honor must be guarded by a community of male family members
to assure she does not infect it, or the family name. The woman is guarded
externally by her behavior and dress code and internally by keeping her hymen
intact. Should the woman tarnish the family name in any way, whether it be
through sexual relations with another man on her own accord, or through a rape
in which she had nothing to do with, the men in her family will take immediate
actions which result in the death of the young woman. (Afkhani 176)

Centuries of rule by various foreign authorities have reinforced the family
as a location of power in some Middle Eastern societies. (Ruggi, 144) Even
today, the family is directly responsible for defending its honor. In many
communities, this means that murder in the name of honor is family business, not
frowned upon by the local community.