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Is Honor Killing Honorable? - Facts & Infographic

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Human Rights Watch, an affiliate of the United Nations, defines honor killing as, “Acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband — or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a specific way to “dishonor” her family, is sufficient to trigger an attack.”


What is Honor Killing?

An honor killing is an act of violence committed against an individual whose actions have brought on any actual or perceived dishonor or shame to the family or community. Typically, women are the victims of honor killings.


Honor Killing Statistics

Honor killings though usually murders, may involve a number of other violent acts including torture, and physical abuse. Victims include those who have been driven to suicide under family pressure. A 2010 study indicates that the average age of honor killing victims is between 15 – 25 .


According to the United Nations, there are over 5,000 cases of murder due to honor killings reported around the world each year. This number is a highly disputed one. In many societies where honor killings are planned by family members and other eminent members of the society, murders often go unreported. Women’s rights organizations working in South Asia and the Middle East estimate that over 20,000 women are honor killed each year.


Women’s Issue?


Honor killings have typically been called a women’s issue in much of the world.


According to Marsha Freeman, Director of International Women's Rights Action Watch at the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, most honor killings occur in countries or societies where women are considered the vessels of their family's honor.


In most of these societies, women are considered responsible for the safekeeping of family honor. Men are expected to eradicate any blemish to this honor, voluntary or not.. According to UNICEF, women who are victims of rape and sexual abuse are also often victims of honor killings because of the perception of dishonor that they bring to their families.


According to an Amnesty International report "The regime of honour is unforgiving: women on whom suspicion has fallen are not given an opportunity to defend themselves, and family members have no socially acceptable alternative but to remove the stain on their honour by attacking the woman"


Victims of honor killing are usually female, but men also become targets. Homosexuality is a major reason men become victims of honor killings. In 2008, Ahmet Yildiz, a 26-year-old physics student from Istanbul was gunned down by his father, Yahaya. The incident caused much outcry and inspired the Turkish movie Zenne.


The Merriam-Webster definition of honor killings is more encompassing and gender-neutral. “Honor Killings: the traditional practice in some countries of killing a family member who is believed to have brought shame on the family.


Islam Honor Killings

Religious honor is often at the core of honor killing. Islam strongly disallows interfaith unions. Honor killings are reported in large numbers from Islamic nations. Paradoxically, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center report, over half of the Muslim respondents in 14 out of 23 countries did not condone honor killing of women. Only in Afghanistan and in Iraq, about 60% respondents said that honor killings of women are often justified. Majority respondents in 15 of these 23 countries do not justify honor killing of men. Only in Afghanistan, about 59% respondents said that the killing of men who sully family honor may be justified.


South Asian Muslim-majority nations fared poorly in this survey, with at most only 45% respondents from Pakistan, 34% respondents from Bangladesh and 24% from Afghanistan saying that honor killings of women are never justified.


Honor killings are not confined to Asia and the Middle East. With the increase in immigration, more cases have been reported from Europe and the Americas. According to a 2012 poll by ComRes for BBC, over 66% of British Asians agree that families should abide by "honor" and about 18% agreed that behavior of women that injure the family's honor justifies physical punishment. About 6% British Asian men agreed that honor killings are justified.


Honour Killing in India

The spate of increasing honor killings in India has sounded the alarm in the higher echelons of the country’s administration. According to women’s right campaigners over 10,000 women are murdered each year in the country in honor killings, most of which take place in the northern states.


In many of these states, caste councils issue warnings and even judge the accused in matters of family or societal honor. Marriage and sexuality is often at the heart of honor killing in the country. Marriages in rural India are frequently arranged by men within the same caste. Love marriages, inter-caste marriages, interfaith marriages, or even marriages within the same sub-caste, extramarital affairs and illicit relations are all considered poignant triggers for violence and honor killings.


In January 2013, leaders of 67 such caste councils - khap panchayats – submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of India, urging a better understanding of those who perpetrate honor killings. A khap panchayat is a cluster of villages united by caste. Indigenous caste councils are often called upon to arbitrate all social issues in these khaps.


We have many cases of honour killings, where the families were peace loving and law abiding and were liberal towards their children. They later on went to kill their children to save their honour in the society.” - Om Prakash Dhankar, caste council leader


Honor killings, however, point toward a much larger problem of violence against women. In India, over 8,391 dowry deaths were reported. These are, however, not reported as honor killings. Unlike other crimes such as domestic violence or rape, however, honor killings are premeditated and deliberate. Most or all family members are involved and perpetrators are rarely remorseful.


In 2010, a leading Indian newspaper reported over 1000 cases of honor killings across the country. 90% of these incidents were reported from the states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.


Honor Killings in Pakistan

In Pakistan, a form of honor killing called karo-kari is the cause of death among over 10,000 women each year. Official records, however, carry less than a tenth of these figures. In 2011, human rights groups recorded 720 cases of honor killings in Pakistan. Among these, about 605 are women. There have been over 4,000 official reports of honor killings in Pakistan between 1998 and 2004 with over 2700 women victims. There are, however, obvious discrepancies in reporting. In 2010, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported 790 cases of honor killings. The same year, there were about 960 such cases reported by Amnesty International. Honor killings have popular support in rural Pakistan, mostly in the Punjab, Sindh, and Baluchistan provinces.


Does Honor Killing Happen In The Western World?

According to a 2010 study, perpetrators and victims of honor killings are largely found in Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Gaza Strip, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the West Bank. While honor killings are mostly associated with the Middle East and South Asia, they are also recorded sparingly in parts of Europe, the Americas, and Central Asia.


Honor Killings in America

Most of the ‘honor killings’ in the U.S., and in Europe occur within the immigrant population. Though stray incidents had been reported earlier, the brutal murder of Fadime Sahindal in Sweden in 2002 was the first case of honor killing in Europe that received wide attention. In general, with greater social integration, honor killing in minority communities undergoes noticeable reduction. In many places, however, immigrant communities continue to hold on stringently to male-dominated, honor-based practices and remain isolated. This in turn gives rise to many such incidents


According to a survey conducted by the Virginia-based non-profit organization, Tahirih Justice Center, 67% of over 500 social services, religious, legal, educational and medical agencies in the U.S. were aware of cases of forced marriage, but only 16% were equipped to deal with these incidents. Many attorneys are also reluctant to take up culturally sensitive issues.


Honor Killing In Books And Cinema

Honor Killing in Books

  • Murder In The Name Of Honour: The True Story Of One Woman's Heroic Fight Against An Unbelievable Crime - by Rana Husseini

  • Honour: Crimes, Paradigms, And Violence Against Women - by Sara Hossain

  • Daughters Of Shame - by Jasvinder Sanghera

  • Honour And Shame: Women in Modern Iraq - by Sana Al-Khayyat

  • Unbroken Spirit - by Ferzanna Riley

  • Maps For Lost Lovers - by Nadeem Aslam

  • The Cry of the Dove - by Fadia Faqir

  • Killing Honor - by Bali Rai

  • In The Name Of Honor: A Memoir - by Mukhtar Mai

  • The Honor Code - by Anthony Appiah

  • Violence In The Name Of Honor - by Shahrzad Mojab and Nahla Abdo

  • Purified By Blood - by Clementine Van Eck.

  • Honor Killing: Stories Of Men Who Killed - by Ayse Onal

  • In Honor Of Fadime - by Unni Wikan

  • Beyond Honor - by Tahira S. Khan


Honor Killing In Cinema

  • Quest For Honor (2009)

  • Act Of Dishonour (2010)

  • Die Fremde (2010)

  • Zenne (2011)

  • Land Gold Women (2011)

  • Two Sides Of The Moon (2011)

  • Bliss (2011)

  • Banaz: A Love Story (2012)

  • Izzatnagari ki Asabhya Betiyan (2012)


Sources –


























Is Honor Killing Honorable.

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