Understanding the Story of Violence in the Name of Honour
In an Honour-based community, the man is defined as the head of family. He is the defender of the family’s Honour; it’s his responsibility to defend against any behaviour that might be seen as shameful or has brought dishonour to their family. Honour killing, “washing shame with blood” is one of the methods to restore the Honour of family in most of the cultural and traditional societies. I have selected this topic because this brutal act of killing is a common and gruesome crime against humanity.
I have heard of such a case in the news where a 17 year old girl was killed in the name of Honour in a tribal area of Balochistan, Pakistan. As is the norm in extremely conservative areas like these, she was basically a prisoner in her house, her older brother was given all the importance, she was not allowed to set foot outside house, let alone go to school. She was mentally disturbed over the injustice of this system, but could not do anything. Her brother and father had total control over the house.
It was when the family’s driver began taking an interest in her. Happy that someone was paying even the slightest bit of attention to her, and yearning to flee the bounds of restrictions encircling her, she decided to return his interest and soon both decided to run away. After a week of hiding and living in extreme poverty, they were captured. Furious that the girl had dishonoured the family name by daring to live her life the way she wanted, they first killed the driver in front of her, and then eventually killed her, both bodies were left hanging in the village to assure that the community was aware that the family had restored its honour.
This paper provides a concise overview of Honour violence, its causes and consequences and the ways to protect the victims from being killed in the name of Honour. According to khafgay, F. 2005 “Honour crimes refer to the murder of a woman by her male family members for a perceived violation of the social norms of sexuality, or a suspicion of women having transgressed the limits of social behavior imposed by traditions”. Motives for Honour killings have included: premarital sex, suspicion of adultery, extramarital relationship, being a victim of sexual assault or rape, refusing arranged marriage, seeking divorce or trying to escape violence; and falling in love with someone who is not allowed by family.
In the words of Ali, R (2001) in Pakistan, when a man takes the life of a woman and claims that he did so because she was guilty of immoral sexual conduct it is called an ‘Honour killing’, not murder. According to the statistics provided by the Annual report of Aurat foundation in 2013; 487 women were killed. In 2012; 432 were killed, in 2011; 705 women were killed and in 2010; 557 women were killed in the name of Honour. However, these numbers are not precise, because higher authorities hide these killings, since it deals with a very sensitive issue.
There are several causes which include traditions of society, and a complex interplay of cultural and religious values that focus on submission of women, and gender inequality. According to Patel, S., & Gadit, A. M. (2008) “The violence exhibits strong gender bias in that, in such settings, men who engage in similar behaviour are typically subject to less severe punishments.” Secondly the patriarchal system, low status of women, and low literacy rate leads to indubitable acceptance of religious doctrine. Furthermore, poor legislation and no fear among people about punishment for their crime, lack of knowledge of their legal rights, quasi judicial system like jirgas make court settlements in congruency with local cultures. This allows killing in the name of Honour.
There are many negative consequences of Honour killing on an individual’s life. It violates the basic legal rights like right to life, right to freedom and equality, right to marriage and family, ban on torture. It threatens safety, affects psychologically and results in the feelings of insecurity about status and identities. According to Patel, S., & Gadit, A. M. (2008) states that many victims of Honour crimes suffered from mental illness, and significant psychological distress.
Many women commit suicide because of the fear of inevitable homicide. Moreover, children who are witness of victims of Honour killing are traumatized, and at an increased risk of drug abuse and behavioural issues. Harsh behaviours of society towards the family of victim will lead to their social isolation. Other females in the society are threaten by these brutal killings and then take no decisions for their own liberty, rights and their lives.
While coming on the solution, it is not easy to change someone’s beliefs in a day; it takes time to bring change. At individual level as a member of society will conduct awareness sessions, empower women through conducting teachings sessions on their basic legal rights, so they can rise up for their selves, and engage community in discussions on crimes and laws in forums. According to Ballard, R. (2011) states that older women have a huge impact on the internal dynamics of the South Asian families; hence they play a great role in dispute resolution. Therefore, we should also concentrate on educating the older women in families.
People should be educated and well informed about their fundamental rights, Education and awareness about the criminal law Amendment Act 2004 in sessions that if a person commits Honour killing he shall be sentenced to imprisonment of 10 years or more. Police officers should update themselves with law so they can help the people and properly investigate the matter. Strong law enforcement agencies, judiciaries have to conduct proper investigations into such cases. Collaborate with NGOs and government to ensure dissemination of information and laws. Involve Media to play an important role not only in reporting latest honour killing but providing details about the laws.
In conclusion Honour killing is a social evil that should be halted. In Pakistan the main hindrance towards the elimination of this evil are the social norms and attitudes of the people.
AURAT FOUNDATION ANNUAL REPORT (2013) Situation of Violence Against Women in Pakistan. Retrieved from http://www.af.org.pk/vaw-reports.php
Ali, R. (2001). The Dark Side of” Honour”: Women Victims in Pakistan. Women Living Under Muslim Laws/Femmes Sous Lois Musulmanes.
Khafagy, F. (2005, May). Honour killing in Egypt. In an expert group meeting organised by the UN Division for the Advancement of Women (pp. 17-20).
Patel, S., & Gadit, A. M. (2008). Karo-Kari: A form of Honour killing in Pakistan. Transcultural psychiatry, 45(4), 683-694.
Ballard, R. (2011). Honour killing? Or just plain homicide. Cultural expertise and litigation: patterns, conflicts, narratives, 123-148.
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