How important honor is? In various countries throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East and parts of South Asia, notion of family honor is extremely important. The reputation of a family in the Islamic world rests on the reputation of its women. Women are usually killed because their families suspect them of “immoral behavior”, and having thus dishonored their families must die. These kinds of crimes are justified in the name of honor.
‘Honor killing’ is an old practice in which men kill female relatives such as sisters or daughters in order to protect their family’s honor, for forced or suspected of losing their virginity outside marriage, for having refused an arranged marriage or having left a husband, even when they have been victims of a sexual crime. Therefore, women who bring dishonor to their families are forced to pay a terrible price at the hands of male family member. Among ‘honor’ killings, according to UNICEF Executive Director targets violence against women, there are other kinds of violence. For example: bride burning, acid violence; in Bangladesh, a common punishment is sulfuric acid thrown in the women’s face. Female infanticide has been practice as a brutal method of family planning in societies, usually of newborn girls in some communities in Asia.
In the Documentary “Crimes of Honor-Women in the Middle East”, Rania Arafat is a young girl who ran away after falling in love with a man that her family didn’t approve. Hiding from her family and fearing for her life. However, she believed in the words of her mother and father, therefore, she returned. But on the way home Rania was murdered, shot in the head by her brother. She was still a virgin. Ghazi al Marine had been married just three months, when a murder came to his home and shot his wife. The murder was her brother. According to the brother he killed her sister to preserve his family’s honor, she was raped three years ago so the honor was stained. Fadime Sahindal was killed by her father, just because she insisted freedom to form a love relationship of her own choice, a lover who was not a Kurd.
From the social perspective, the murders “usually fathers, brothers and husbands” are treated as heroes and praised because they have “cleansed the family’s honor”, while the victims are buried in silence. However, the man who commit these crimes know will probably never be punished and the minority who are arrested will serve a few months in prison. One man in prison said, “I’m proud that I kill her”, “I’m ashamed that she was my sister”. According to Nazrin Huk, a Bangladeshi women’s right activist, “people who throw acid get away with it. Most people think, ‘Oh, we can, you know, nothing is going to happen to us.” In other words, most people will continue to do this if the people who did it don’t get punishment.
According to UNICEF Execution Director targets violence against women, in Jordan more than 30 women per year are killed in the name of “honor”. In 1997, about 300 women were estimated to have been killed in Pakistan. In 1999 estimates, more than two-thirds of all murders in Gaza strip and West bank were ‘honor’ killings. Between 1996 and 1998 thirty-six ‘honor’ crimes were reported in Lebanon. In 1997 more that 400 ‘honor’ crimes took place in Yemen. In Egypt 52 cases of ‘honor’ killings were reported in 1997. Between 1996 and 1998 there was a four-fold increase in reported acid attacks from 47 to more than 200, in Bangladesh. It’s estimated that more than 5,000 women are killed each year in India because their in-laws consider their dowries inadequate.
However, there are some people who try to end crimes of ‘honor’, who try to fight for the women’s right around the world, who attempt to provide protection and assistance to those in danger. An award-winning reporter for the Jordan Times, Rana Husseini, investigates the crimes, documents and reports on the stories of terrified young women. Asma Khader, a Jordanian Human Rights Lawyer, fights in the courts to protect women, and for longer prison sentences for those guilty of femicide. Nadera Shalhoub-Kervorkian, Professor, founded the Women’s Work Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in the West Bank. She provides aid and counseling to frightened women with no place to turn. Also, for the first time President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, has made this promise: “ Pakistan will treat honor killings as murder.” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy cited the call of United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on governments to recognize, and work to modify, inherited prejudices and customs which have made so-called ‘honor’ crimes and acid attacks acceptable.
In conclusion, to be a murder has nothing to do with honor. As long as these crimes continue without punishments, people will continue to do them. And the percentage of the violation of women’s rights will increase, and a lot of murderers will increase too. But there is now at least the possibility for justice. And just a little less acceptance of violence in the name of honor.