Honor killing may be defined as the killing of a family member who has brought dishonor to the prestige of the family. This practice is notorious in Asian countries and becoming common in western countries where the usual targets are girls and women. The main reasons for such killings are attributed to women who have dishonored their families by engaging in practices which are forbidden within patriarchal or orthodox societies .
At least 20,000 women die around the world due to these killings each year and this is becoming alarming as the usual targets are adolescent girls and women who above manifested the desires to emancipate. It is a notable fact to attribute this phenomenon to Asia because the cases reported are basically from its countries -particularly India.
In India, for instance ,the caste system being deeply routed within the hierarchy of the society ,even after the endeavors of Gandhi and his reforms to protect marginalized groups from discrimination , this practice has continued to strive far and wide :so to understand Honor Killings ,the concept of caste discrimination should be considered.
The simplest form of caste discrimination example is likely a boy from a lower caste engaging in a relationship with a higher caste girl ,the consequence is not only a refusal of such alliance ,but a repressive reaction incurred by the couple –case studies have literally unveiled the truth on matters of a girl who has eloped with a dalit boy being savagely burnt and killed .
Many African countries do follow the same trend. One notable incident was the disappearance of Kay ,the youngest wife of IdI Amin ,dicatator of Uganda known for his atrocities -though not confirmed ,it is believed that Kaye might have been literally executed for having an affair with Idi Amin’s Doctor and health minister.
This practice is however not limited only to women and in within the Asian countries :the western countries have also cases of honor killings where the husband or boy of a family have been executed on mere engagement into extra conjugal liaisons or homosexuality –which is widely a disputed issue .
The Impact of homosexuality and infidelity is merely that,both are considered against the ethics of religion ,who above all encourages reproduction of the species in the ways prescribed in the holy texts. Biologically a man is compatible with a women and the result of all these is procreation as proved by science ,but if two human beings of the same sex couple together there is logically no reproduction .On the religious field this triggers the violation of morality and encourages repression –in the form of honor killings .
The issue of Honour killing is wide and complex .Though governments endeavor to bring laws to punish this crime , it continues to thrive throughout societies that seem to have conserved jealously this method not willing to change .Surprisingly this phenomenon seem to progress to the west despite educational reforms and women emancipation campaigns against it –the change of mentality proving to be a herculean task to tackle and the attitude to this problem a real puzzle.
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Every time the term "honour killing" is used, we view the murder of women through the eyes of their killers. By adding the word "honour" to killing, we use the language of those who justify this odious crime on the basis of "honourable" motives. We use the language of their excuses. We must stop doing this.
Linguistic labels matter. The term "honour killing" not only cedes too much power to the perpetrator, but is offensive to survivors and women. Instead, we need to see the crime through the eyes of those attacked, because these acts of gender violence attack something more than women's bodies, something precarious and precious: the challenge by thousands of courageous young women around the world to oppressive patriarchy and stultifying social convention. In this sense, they are an attack on us all.
Take two recent examples. In May, 25-year-old Farzana Parveen was stoned to death by her family in the street outside the Lahore high court. Why? Because she married a man of her own choice. At the time of her death she was pregnant. That was an "honour killing".
This month, also in Pakistan, 18-year-old Saba Maqsood was shot twice by her family, put in a sack and thrown in a canal. Why? Because she married the man she loved. That was an attempted "honour killing". Following Parveen's murder, the UN's human rights commissioner Navi Pillay said, "I do not even wish to use the phrase 'honour killing': there is not the faintest vestige of honour in killing a woman in this way."
These are not isolated incidents. In 2008, the UN population fund estimated that 5,000 women annually are killed in the name of "honour". Subsequently the Council of Europe stated that situation had "worsened" in Europe and elsewhere in recent years.
Although coined by Dutch-Turkish academic Ane Nauta in 1978, it is widely recognised that adding the word "honour" to killing is problematic. Public bodies habitually use the term encased within supposedly sanitising inverted commas or preceded by the words "so-called". Typical is the Association of Chief Police Officers, which while using the term immediately states that of course "there is no honour in the commission of murder in the name of so-called honour".
In its 2009 report, the Council of Europe defined these crimes as those "justified, explained (or mitigated)" by the perpetrator to defend family honour. But it also acknowledged that the term should be treated with "scepticism". Further, the UN states that the term risks "reinforcing discriminatory misperceptions that women embody the 'honour' of the male and the community".
What grates is precisely how the crime is viewed through the lens of the offender. It is true that perpetrators invariably invoke their slighted "honour". But there is a further common feature: this violence seeks to punish women for seeking to exercise independent choice, for defying not only the wishes of their families but social expectation – for daring to be free. That's the heart of the matter, and that's the right lens to view the problem through.
We believe the time is ripe to intensify the search for a new term. On other gender violence issues, we have in recent times changed our use of language. Originally female genital mutilation was called "female circumcision" in the UK (the criminalising statute was the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985). But the term "circumcision" did not adequately reflect society's deprecation of this violent child abuse, and was subsequently altered. Indeed, in this and other crimes of sexual violence the term "victim" is heavily contested by survivors. As FGM activist Leyla Hussein states, "Language is powerful. It's important we use it correctly. Being labelled a 'victim' in itself continues the violation." Words matter.
So what term are we to use instead of "honour killing"? A number of suggestions have previously been advanced. The Canadian Council of Muslim Women suggests "femicide". Perhaps "family femicide" adds the kinship collusion element of the crime. Kofi Annan, while he was UN secretary general, suggested "shame killings" . "Patriarchal killing" is another term that is occasionally used, among others.
We suggest that the new term should reflect the fact that women are being punished because they seek to be free and challenge patriarchy. The term we collectively settle on might not roll off the tongue like "honour killing", but we need one that carries the moral condemnation we feel.
A term like "honour killing" clouds culpability. It cloaks acts of gender violence with one of highest human aspirations – honour. It risks falsely dignifying these deplorable acts with an undeserved varnish of higher motive.
In this struggle, words are indeed weapons. We need to find the right words – the right weapons – to fight this violation. "Honour killing" is not it. There is no honour in murder.