The name betrays the barbarity of it. There is really nothing of honor involved in the practice.
Each year, thousands of women, some as young as age 5, are killed by family members in an effort to protect the [patriarchal] honor of their families.
Often the cases are unreported, making it hard to get an accurate number. Often the perpetrators of the crime go unpunished and the society condones it as “just.”
Honor killings are common in religiously Muslim or traditional societies such as those in West Asia, India, Pakistan, etc. However, many honor killings occur in west societies such as England, Canada and the USA. Reports submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights show that honor killings have occurred in Bangladesh, Great Britain, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda. In countries like Afghanistan, the Taliban government encourages the act.
The reason for honor killings can vary: to protect the honor of the [wronged] family, in very patriarchal societies where females are not just properties of the father or husband who can choose to punish or dispose of property at will, but they also carry the burden of the family’s morals and honor.
Honor killings can occur for a variety of reasons, none of them worthy of the taking of a human life.
- Rape–real or imagined. In March of 1999, a 16-year-old mentally retarded girl who was raped in the Northwest Frontier province of Pakistan was turned over to her tribe’s judicial council. Even though the crime was reported to the police and the perpetrator was arrested, the Pathan tribesmen decided that she had brought shame to her tribe and she was killed in front of a tribal gathering.
- Gender-contact/flirting–A 16-year-old Turkish girl was buried alive by relatives as a punishment for talking to boys. In Turkey, a young woman’s throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad had been dedicated to her over the radio
- Marital infidelity–suspected or real–Amnesty International has reported on one case in which a husband murdered his wife based on a dream that she had betrayed him.
- Pre-marital Sex
- Other Frivolous reasons–such as failing to serve a meal on time, et al
The story of Samia Imran is one of the most widely cited cases used to illustrate the vulnerability of women, acceptability of the act and the cruelty. The murder took place in broad daylight, was abetted by the victim’s mother, who was a doctor, and occurred in the office of Asma Jahangir, a prominent Pakistani lawyer and the UN reporter on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. In April 1999 Imran, a 28-year-old married woman seeking a divorce from her violent husband after 10 years of marriage, reluctantly agreed to meet her mother in a lawyers’ office in Lahore, Pakistan. Imran’s family opposed the divorce and considered her seeking a divorce to be shaming to the family’s honor. Her mother arrived at the lawyer’s office with a male companion, who immediately shot and killed Imran.
Human Rights activists have warned that Honor Killing are part of a larger body of crimes against women, justified in traditional societies where they are deemed as properties of male family members, terminable when the male desires them to be.Women accused by family members of bringing dishonor to their families are rarely given the opportunity to prove their innocence.
Officials claim that nothing can be done to halt the practice because the concept of women’s rights is not culturally relevant to deeply patriarchal societies.