Every year thousands of women are murdered, often by their own family members, in the name of honour.
Honour killings are extreme forms of domestic violence that predominantly occur in Muslim and Arab nations.
The United Nations estimates at least 5000 women are killed for a range of offenses, which can include defying arranged marriage, marrying a man of their choosing, being raped, or simply the assumption of adultery (Knudsen, 2004).
In one case, a Pakistani woman was shot and killed in her attorney’s office as she filed for divorce. Her own parents planned the murder, (Arnold, 2001).
In another case, a 17-year old girl in Jordan was shot eight times after telling her family that she had been raped and impregnated by her father’s friend. The family couldn’t afford an abortion, so instead the father bought a shot gun to remove the social stigma he believed would fall upon his family as a result his daughter’s pregnancy (Arnold, 2001).
To begin to understand the historical framework of this violent practice, we must consider what defines “honour” in the Arab world. Warrick (2005) describes the concept as being largely associated to social standing on the basis of moral behaviour. In Arab countries a man’s honour is often closely linked to the chastity of his female relatives.
The United Nations openly condemns the practice of honour killings. The UN’s Convention onthe Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women is the most comprehensive women’s rights treaty in the world (Joseph & Najambadi, 2005). It requires party states to abolish customary and religious practices that discriminate against women (Arnold, 2001).
Yet, a 2002 UN report on violence against women found honour killings continue take place in countries party to this convention.
One of those countries is Jordan . In Jordan, it is estimated that one in four murders is an honour killing (Warrick, 2005)
Premeditated murder is punishable by death, yet the country’s penal code upholds a law in favor of men who kill female relatives (UN, 2007). Article 340 states that a defendant benefits from an exculpatory or mitigating excuse if he kills, wounds, or injures a female relative, found to be committing an act of adultery (Warrick, 2005). A similar law does not exist for women who catch or hear of their husbands or male relatives involved in adulterous behaviour.Jordan’s royal family and the country’s English language media have vocally opposed Article 340, yet the country’s Parliament has voted down numerous bills seeking to change the law.
Like Jordan, Pakistan also signed the CEDAW treaty.
Former President PervezMusharraf publically condemned honour killings, even calling on Pakistan courts to investigate these incidents as pre-meditated murder (Knudsen, 2004).
Yet between 1998-2004 an estimated 4 thousand women were killed in Pakistan in honour style killings.Pakistan’s courts don’t always intervene, and instead matters like murder are routinely settled outside of court. The Qisas and Diyat Act, passed in 1990, allows victim’s heirs to close criminal investigations, facilitate a pardon, and accept monetary compensation from an accused, instead of trying the alleged killer in court (Knudsen, 2004).
The practice of honour killing though is not limited to the Arab world
In the past decade, at least a dozen murders of women living in Canada have carried the marks of honor killings (Globe and Mail, 2010). However Canadian authorities have not hesitated to investigate, charge, and convict those found responsible for planning and carrying out these murders.
In 2009 the government revamped its citizenship guide to include a section that called honour killings barbaric and clearly inform new immigrants that Canada does not tolerate this practice (National Post, 2009).
The Un’s CEDAW treaty entrenches fair and equal treatment of women in all parts of society, but it appears the convention is largely toothless, since some member states are picking the parts of the convention they want to implement.
Both Pakistan and Jordan are parties to CEDAW, yet statistics show that a quarter of all murders in these countries are comprised of honour killings. However, this cannot be blamed solely on Islamic culture or religion. Its’ existence is largely a result of a lack of education on women’s rights, and a country’s choice to enforce gender biased laws.
In the absence of government leadership, the international community must flex its power to ensure Jordan and Pakistan live up to their commitments through CEDAW.
Sanctions must be placed against countries that do not uphold the values of international treaties , otherwise what good are the treaties?In addition, greater ground level awareness efforts are needed in areas where honour killings are most prevalent, to help create a societal shift in which women are equally valued and their rights are recognized.
An Equal Right to Life? <br />5000 women killed each year in the name of honour (UNCPA, 2000)<br />“Honour killings are murders carried out by family members against girls and women, who are believed to have committed a sexual indiscretion, or to have caused gossip related to sexual behaviour that besmirches the honour of the family “ (Warrick, 2005)<br />
The Victims<br />SamiaSarwar 1999 Pakistan <br />Shot and killed in attorney’s office as she filed for divorce from her abusive husband <br />Murder organized by her own parents (Warrick, 2005)<br />Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/correspondent/909948.stm<br />
The Victims<br />17 year old Jordanian girl shot eight times after revealing she was raped and impregnated by her father’s friend<br />Family could not afford <br /> abortion <br />Killed by father & brother<br /> (Arnold, 2001) <br />
What constitutes “honour”?<br />Socially constructed concept<br /> Warrick (2005) describes the concept of honour as being largely associated to social standing on the basis of moral behaviour<br />In Arab countries a man’s honour is closely intertwined with the chastity of his female relatives<br />
CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women<br />CEDAW is the most comprehensive women’s rights treaty in the world <br />Ratified in 1981 and has support of 186 nations<br />Mandates countries to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, including discriminatory customs or religious practices (Arnold, 2001) <br />
Upholding CEDAW?<br />2002 UN report on Violence against Women found honour killings still take place in <br /><ul><li>Pakistan
Jordan’s Hypocrisy<br />Signing member of CEDAW <br />Pre-meditated murder punishable by death <br />BUT<br />Article 340 – provides exculpatory or mitigating excuse for defendant who kills, wounds, or injures a female relative, who is found to be committing an act of adultery <br />Research shows men convicted of honour killing in Jordan receive one month to one year in prison<br />(Arnold, 2001) <br />
Pakistan’s Policies<br />Pakistan is signing member of CEDAW<br />Former President PervezMusharraf publically condemns honour killing <br />Calls on courts to investigate honour killings as the same as pre-meditated murder <br /> (Knudsen, 2004)<br />Former Pakistani President PervezMusharraf<br />
Pakistan’s Conflicting Laws<br />1998-2004 – 4000 Pakistani women/girls killed in honour killings (Amnesty, 2006)<br />1990 Qisas and Diyat Law – allows victim’s heirs to close criminal investigations, facilitate a pardon, and accept monetary compensation from an accused, instead of trying the alleged killer in court (Knudsen, 2004)<br />Private compensation versus the public administration of justice<br />(Knudsen, 2004)<br />
Canada’s Crimes of Honour <br />17 year old AmandeepAtwal<br />Stabbed to death in B.C. by father in 2003. He disapproved of her relationship.<br />20 year old KhateraSidiqi and her fiance were shot to death in Ottawa in 2006 by Sidiqi’s brother. Her brother claimed she was disrespectful of her brother. <br />AsqaParvez 16<br />Killed in Mississauga in 2007 by her brother and father over arguments about hearing a hijab.<br />Shafia sisters, ages 10, 9, and 17, were found dead in a submerged car in Ottawa in 2009. The girls’ parents and brother were charged with first degree murder. <br />Source: CBC, 2009<br />
Canada’s Stance<br />Investigation, prosecution, and sentencing for killers<br />Immigration information booklet amended in 2009 to clearly state the country’s views…<br /> “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, honour killing…or other gender based violence.” <br />(Carlsen,2009)<br />
Moving Forward <br />International community must intervene and pressure states to uphold CEDAW obligations<br />Tangible government commitment to repeal gender-biased laws<br />Honour killings must be viewed as cold-blooded murder <br />Awareness efforts to educate men and women about women’s rights<br />
References <br />Amnesty international (1999). PAKISTAN: Honor killings of women and girls. <br /> Retrieved from http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA33/018/1999<br />Arnold, K. (2001). Are the Perpetrators of Honor Killings Getting Away With <br /> Murder? Article 340 of the Jordanian Penal code Analyzed Under the Convention on the Elimination<br /> of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. American University International Law Review. 16, 1343-1409.<br />Chesler, P. (2010). Worldwide trends in honor killings. Middle East Quarterly. 17 (2). 3-11. <br />Caplan, G. (2010). Honour killings in Canada: even worse than we believe. The Globe <br /> and Mail. Retrieved fromhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/honour-<br /> killings-in-canada-even-worse-than-we-believe/article1650228/ <br />
References<br />Carlsen, K. (2009). New citizenship guide says no to 'barbaric' practices. The NationalPostRetrieved from<br />http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2216251#ixzz1DR7D7u2Z<br />Human Rights Watch (2004). Honoring the Killers: Justice Denied for “Honor” Killings in Jordan. Retrieved from<br /> http://www.hrw.org/en/node/12141/section/1<br />Knudsen, A. (2004). License to Kill: Honour Killings in Pakistan. Chr. Michelson Reports (Working Paper). Retrieved from http://<br />ebookbrowse.com/1737-license-to-kill-honour-killings-in-pakistan-pdf-d16959785<br />UN Women (2002). Facts and Figures on VAW. Retrieved form http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/<br />violence_against_women/facts_figures.php?page=4<br />United Nations Populations Fund (2000) State of the World Population: Chapter 3Violence Against Womenand Girls http://<br />www.unfpa.org/swp/2000/english/ch03.html<br />
References<br />United Nations Development Program. (2002). Human development report. Retrieved from <br />http://www.undp.org/hdr2002/<br />Warrick, C. (2005). The vanishing victim: criminal law and gender in jordan. Law & Society <br />Review. 30 (2), 315-348<br />