Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

The Face of Honour Based Crimes: Global Concerns and Solutions

Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

The Face of Honour Based Crimes: Global Concerns and Solutions

Article excerpt


Possession and control of the woman by the man to whom she belongs has nurtured in legal notions of adultery, seduction, and enticement. Fathers are seeking to retrieve their daughters from the men the daughters choose to live with, resort to charging the other man with kidnapping, abducting and inducing the daughters to compel them into marriage. "Honour" killings of women can be defined as acts of murder in which "a woman is killed for her actual or perceived immoral behaviour" (Hassan, 1999). These killings result from the perception that defence of honour justifies killing a person whose behaviour dishonours their clan or family.

Human Rights Watch (2001) defines honour killings as follows:

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 way that "dishonours" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.

Other behaviours that challenge male control (staying out late, smoking, chatting, going to a pub etc.) can also be reasons for 'honour crimes'.

Ruggi (1998) states that honour killing is:

A complicated issue that cuts deep into the history of society. What the men of the family, clan, or tribe seek control of in a patrilineal society is reproductive power. Women, especially of the tribes, were considered a factory for making men. The honour killing is not a means to control sexual power or behaviour. What's behind it is the issue of fertility, or reproductive power (p. 12).

Amnesty International (2001) adds that 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. Araji (2000) states that:

The conception of honour used to rationalize abuse and killing of women is founded on the idea that one person's honour depends on the behaviour of others; behaviour that must be controlled. Thus, an essential component of one's self-esteem and community status becomes dependent on the behaviour of others. This conception is distinct from the notion that honour depends only on an individual's own behaviour (para 4).

The gravity of the Issue

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (2000) report estimates that the annual worldwide total of honour-killing victims may be as high as 5,000. As per Warraich (2005) in 2002 alone, over 382 people, of whom 245 women and 137 were men, became victims of honour killings in the Sindh province of Pakistan. As per The Dawn (2005), the average number of honour killings for the whole nation ran up to more than 10,000 per year. In April 2008, it came to light that some months prior, a Saudi woman was killed by her father for chatting on Facebook to a man. The murder only came to light when a Saudi cleric referred to the case in an attempt to demonstrate the strife that the website causes (McElroy, 2008). In Jordan which is considered one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East, families often have sons who are considered minors, under the age of 18, to commit the honour killings because a loophole in the juvenile law allows minors to serve time in a juvenile detention center and they are released with a clean criminal record at the age of 18 (Hassan & Welchman, 2006). Another well known case was of Heshu Yones, who was stabbed to death by her father in London in 2002, when her family heard a love song dedicated to her and suspected she had a boyfriend. In the Turkish province of Sanliurfa, a young woman's "throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad was dedicated to her over the radio" (Turgut, 1998). It is unknown how many women are maimed or disfigured for life in attacks that fall short of murder. …

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