Heroes, Hymen and Honour: A Study of the Character of Attitude Change among Male Youth with Their Roots in an Honour-Based Context

Article excerpt

Abstract

Background: Honour-related violence and oppression (HRVO) became a public and a state concern in Sweden in the wake of murders of three young women of foreign origin in the late 90's and early 20's. The Swedish society's focus on girls' and women's exposure to honour-related restrictions and reprisals, overshadowed to some extent, boys' and young men's condition in the honour context. Yet in recent years boys' and young men's dual role as both victims and potential perpetrators in honour culture has received increasing attention in Sweden. In the discussion on how HRVO must be combated, attitude change interventions targeting boys and young men have been emphasized as an important measure.

Purpose: The overall aim of this study is to elucidate and compare the participants' attitudes towards honour, masculinity and virginity in a retrospective perspective i.e. before and after their attendance in an attitude change program.

Method: The study is based on a content analysis of individual in-depth and focus group interviews with participants and leaders of an attitude change project called "Sharaf Heroes".

Findings: This study indicates that honour-based norms and values are very persistent which requires both an uncompromising and an arduously intervention targeting attitude change.

Keywords: Honour, Heroes, Hymen, Rumours, Sharaf, Virginity, Masculinity

1. Introduction

1.1. Background

Between the years of 1996-2002 three young unmarried women of foreign descent were murdered in Sweden. What these victims had in common was that they were murdered by their male family members. The first victim was murdered by her brother and male cousin, the second by her uncles and the third by her father. What the offenders had in common, on the other hand, was their intent to restore the family honour by murdering these young women who by their "shameful behavior" had brought the family into disgrace. These three murders, in particular the murder of Fadime Sahindal, attracted much attention in the Swedish society. Thus honour-related violence and oppression (HRVO) became a public and a state concern (Ekström, 2009; Schlytter, 2004).

The debate on HRVO in Sweden focused primarily on girls' and women's exposure to HRVO. Boys' and men's conditions in the honour-related context remained more or less neglected until the first case of honour killing of a young Afghan man took place in Sweden in the year 2005. Since then, boys' and young men's situation in general and their dual role as both victims and potential perpetrators have received proportionately more attention. Two aspects in the discussion of boys and young men in the honour cultural context have been highlighted. The first is that it's necessary but not fully adequate to merely support and protect female victims of HRVO but in addition the community support and the social action should also be directed toward changing the attitudes of men who advocate and/or practice honour-based traditions. The second aspect emphasizes the importance of support and help to those men who are victims of HRVO (Bredal, 2011; Schlytter, Högdin, Ghadimi, Backlund & Rexvid, 2009a).

In the wake of the murder of Fadime Sahindal in 2002, a number of NGO projects and organizations, among others a project called "Sharaf Hereos", founded in Sweden (Ekström, 2009; Schlytter, Rexvid, Celepli & Nasih, 2011). The project has since inception been concentrated on directing attitude change intervention toward young men with their roots in the honour culture. The point of departure of this study is to scrutinize how the concept of honour as a way to legitimate control of female sexual purity is understood by male youth participating in the attitudinal change project "Sharaf Heroes" in Sweden.

1.2 Aim and research questions

The overall aim of this study is to elucidate and compare the participants' attitudes towards honour, masculinity and virginity in a retrospective perspective i. …