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PA 'Honor Killings' Up 100% in 2013

Health & Wellness  (tags: Islam, Muslims, women, honour killing, honor killing, murder, abuse, death, family, prevention, protection, safety, society )

- 1786 days ago -
Abbas leaves pledges to change legal leniency for 'honor killings' unfulfilled; law remains and murders double. A senior official in the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Women's Affairs has reported a rise of over 100% in the number of "honor ki


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Gillian M (218)
Tuesday April 1, 2014, 12:44 pm
A senior official in the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Women's Affairs has reported a rise of over 100% in the number of "honor killings" in 2013 compared to the previous year. The murder of women for tarnishing the "family honor" is still protected under PA law.

The official, Nabila Rizq, was referenced in the official PA media earlier in the month reporting the number of "honor killing" victims for 2013 at 27, compared to 13 the year before. Victims are typically guilty of "crimes" including such things as pre-marital sex, being raped or refusing an arranged marriage.

The report, which was translated by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), added that Rizq blamed the legal loophole which lets murderers off with a reduced sentence if they claimed their crime was motivated by "family honor," a loophole PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was requested to change three years ago.

Indeed, Abbas promised to remove the legal preferential treatment of "honor killings" back in 2011, although revelations in 2012 exposed that he had no intentions of changing the law. Abbas's aides made clear at the time the move was meant not to offend Islamic conservatives and risk losing control.

PMW notes that PA law on the issue is drawn from the Jordanian legal system. Article 98 of Jordanian Penal Act 16 states perpetrators "shall be liable to a lesser penalty" for crimes they committed in "a state of great anger" following "a wrongful and dangerous act on the part of the victim," an act left undefined.

Further, the report in the PA media about Rizq's comments noted the real reason behind some of the "honor killings" was actually to silence women seeking their proper inheritance.

"Honor killings" have generally been on the rise in the PA; 29 women were killed in the four years up through 2010, but nearly the same number were murdered in the following year and a half.

In contrast to the PA ambivalence, a member of the Hamas "parliament," Dr. Yunis Al-Astal, spoke out strongly against "honor killings" this week, saying the killing is worse than the affront to the "family honor" that sparked the murder.

Gillian M (218)
Tuesday April 1, 2014, 3:10 pm
The United Nations has estimated that around 5,000 honor killings take place each year, but since many occur in isolated rural areas and aren’t reported to authorities, it’s likely that the real figure is much higher. In many countries, the practice is so socially accepted that murderers are treated leniently, or not punished at all. In countries like Pakistan and Yemen, for example, the killings are often ignored by police and prosecutors. In Syria, the legal code states that if a man catches a female relative having illicit sex with another man, and kills them (either just the woman or the partner as well), he is entitled to a reduced penalty of just two years in prison.

In these cultures, the women of the family are seen as representing its honor, so there is massive pressure on them to behave ‘properly’. This means dressing modestly, never talking to men outside the family, never attracting attention to themselves, and most importantly of all, avoiding sex before marriage (or outside marriage, once they are wed) and agreeing to marry a partner chosen by their family. Other types of behaviour seen as ‘dishonorable’ for women - and therefore as punishable by death – include political activism, investigating other religions, and requesting a divorce. There have also been many cases of homosexual boys being killed to preserve the family ‘honor.’

If a family member deviates from this code of behaviour, the family’s reputation is sullied. The only way they can redeem themselves is by murdering the relative – again, usually the daughter – who has dishonored them. It doesn’t matter if the relative is completely innocent. It could simply be that she’s attractive, and so been shown attention by men outside the family; it could be that she lost her virginity by being raped. The fact that she has sullied the family’s reputation is enough to justify murdering her. For example, Amnesty International reported a case in Turkey of a 16 year old girl who was murdered after her family heard a love song being dedicated to her on the radio. In Pakistan, a girl with learning difficulties was killed after being raped, even though the relative who raped her was found and prosecuted.

Honor killing is as incomprehensible as it is tragic. Why would seemingly sane people be willing to kill their own offspring – daughters they have conceived, given birth to and spent many years nurturing – for the sake of their reputation? It doesn't make any sense from an evolutionary point of view. If the Neo-Darwinian view of evolution is correct, human beings should be least likely to kill the people with whom they share most genes (i.e. their children). They should be willing to die for their children – or at least to nurture and protect them – not kill them. Like the puzzle of why human beings can be altruistic towards people – and other living creatures – with whom they have little genetic connection, honour killing seems to highlight shortcomings within Neo-Darwinian theory.

However, from a psychological and cultural point of view, there are some possible explanations. To a large extent, honor killings are linked to an extreme form of ‘status anxiety’ – the fear of losing status, and the desire to protect it. In the societies where it occurs, there is a pathological insecurity, a constant pressure to adhere to strict social conventions for fear of losing face, and of being ostracised by the rest of the community. There’s a connection to social identity and the need for belonging. Disobeying social convention brings the risk of losing one’s identity as a member of a particular social group.

Honor killings are clearly related to male domination too, and low female status. It’s only possible for fathers to kill their own daughters – or brothers their own sisters – because they place a very low value of female life to begin with. If women were revered and respected, then no one would consider killing – or even abusing – them. It’s no coincidence that many of the cultures which practice honor killing – for example, India and Pakistan – also practice female infanticide. In these cultures, female life has negligible value, and so to destroy it is only a minor crime.

There’s certainly a strong link to sexual repression too. In addition to the insanity of parents killing their own children, it also seems insane that most honor killings are a punishment for completely natural and healthy human instincts: the ‘crime’ of falling in love with a member of a different caste (which is often the cause of honour killings in India), or with a stranger not hand-picked by your parents, or the ‘crime’ of feeling sexual attraction and following this through to sex itself. Again, it’s no coincidence that honor killings occur in societies which, in addition to being strongly patriarchal, have a high degree of sexual repression, and a neurotically hostile attitude to sex and the human body. It’s difficult to imagine honor killings taking place if these cultures saw sex as a natural and health impulse, where sex before marriage was acceptable and there was no pressure for girls to remain virgins till marriage – just as it’s impossible to imagine them taking place if females were valued as highly as males.

Like so many other ‘insane’ types of human behaviour – such as warfare, racism and materialism – honour killing ultimately stems from a sense of existential vulnerability and incompleteness. It’s this sense of lack which creates the need for belonging and status, and the paranoid fear of losing them. As I suggest in my new book Back to Sanity, the only sure way of correcting this pathological behaviour is for human beings to develop a more secure and stable sense of self, and to begin to develop an inner harmony and wholeness.

From Steve Taylor, senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University

Davide M (0)
Tuesday April 1, 2014, 4:16 pm

Beth S (330)
Tuesday April 1, 2014, 4:40 pm
That's an excellent description of this phenomenon from Steve Taylor at Leeds.

Thank you for sharing.

patrica and edw jones (190)
Tuesday April 1, 2014, 9:47 pm
Noted, thanks Gillian.

patrica and edw jones (190)
Tuesday April 1, 2014, 10:01 pm
What a misnomer that expression 'Honour Killings' is............where is the 'honour'??? Thanks Gillian.

Betty Kelly (4)
Tuesday April 1, 2014, 11:40 pm
Where is their any honor in killing your kin?

Helen Porter (39)
Wednesday April 2, 2014, 12:17 am
I do not weep for the dead.
Their pastures are green.

I sob and wail for the living.

Stan B (123)
Wednesday April 2, 2014, 2:58 am
Here's the one thing they excel at.

Madhu Pillai (22)
Wednesday April 2, 2014, 4:34 am

Shil O (0)
Wednesday April 2, 2014, 4:50 am
Honour killings-- what a misnomer - what would these lying scurrilous scumbags know about honour

. (0)
Wednesday April 2, 2014, 6:03 am
Noted & posted

Birgit W (160)
Wednesday April 2, 2014, 1:32 pm
Sadly noted.

Wednesday April 2, 2014, 3:18 pm

Kamia T (89)
Wednesday April 2, 2014, 4:31 pm
When I was much younger, and dating a man from Pakistan, I had to read the Qu'ran to decide if we were going to move forward with our relationship. Unfortunately, there were just too many of the teachings that I couldn't support, and honor killings was one of them. Imagine being a woman and voluntarily taking on that possibility?

Mitchell D (82)
Wednesday April 2, 2014, 6:51 pm

Victor Romero (18)
Thursday April 3, 2014, 7:15 pm

Victor Romero (18)
Thursday April 3, 2014, 7:16 pm

Victor Romero (18)
Thursday April 3, 2014, 7:16 pm

Melania Padilla (123)
Wednesday June 11, 2014, 10:12 am
So sick of this!
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