All text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence Against Women Exposed”:
“A culturally condoned atrocity
A young Bangladesh woman was flogged to death by order of village clerics for “immoral behaviour”. An Egyptian man paraded the head of his daughter on a stick through the streets of his neighborhood after he killed her for besmirching his name. A teenager’s throat was slit in Turkey because a love ballad was dedicated to her over the radio. A Pakistani woman was gunned down by her own family in the presence of her human rights lawyer for pursuing a divorce from her abusive husband. A 13-year-old Turkish girl’s husband slit her throat in a public square after pulling her out of a cinema and accusing her of being a prostitute. A 35-year-old Jordanian man shot and killed his sister for reporting to the police that she had been raped. A Turkish girl was killed by her father for telling the authorities that she had been raped and then refusing his demand that she marry the rapist. A 29-year-old woman was dragged from her house in Afghanistan by her husband and local officials stoned her to death for committing adultery, while the man with whom she was alleged to have had an affair was whipped and then freed.
Each of these executions was committed within the past five years in the name of “honour”. Many of the perpetrators received no criminal penalties; others served only short sentences. Considered justifiable punishment for a wide range of perceived offences, contemporary honour crimes are based on archaic codes of social conduct that severely circumscribe female behavior while at the same time legitimizing male violence against women.
Honour crimes are typically engineered by male family members but often tacitly or explicitly condoned by the community and/or the state. In many countries the responsibility for the murder itself is assigned to an underage male, thus ensuring a (reduced) juvenile sentence in the event the case is prosecuted. In most instances, the murderer is hailed as a “true man”. It is also not unheard of for female family members to act as accomplices to the killing or even to carry out the murder itself.
In recent reports, both the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial and Summary Executions have highlighted the egregious type of violence against women, citing incidents in Bangladesh, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, India, Italy, Pakistan, Brazil, Ecuador, Uganda, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran and Yemen, as well as among migrant communities in Germany, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Honour crimes also have been reported in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The actual scale of the problem is impossible to determine. In many cases deaths are not registered; in others murders are made to look like suicides, or women are forced or induced by their families to kill themselves. Burns or acid attacks not resulting in death often are attributed to accidents, a claim which victims may not refute for fear of further reprisals. In societies where these crimes occur, protection and support are often extended to the perpetrator rather than to the victim.
Despite the lack of reliable statistical data, estimates based on reviews of police reports and court dockets, newspaper articles and other sources in a variety of countries suggest that thousands of women and girls are murdered each year in the name of honour. Anecdotal evidence from Pakistan, for example, suggests that more than 1,000 women are victims of honour crimes annually. Over one-third of femicides in Jordan are thought to be such killings. In Turkey, an annual report of the Human Rights Association concluded that more than half of women killed by family members in 2003 were victims of honour crimes.
In 1997, the former attorney general of the Palestinian National Authority suggested that 70 percent of all murders of women in Gaza and the West Bank were honour crimes. In the same year, as many as 400 honour killings took place in Yemen, and 57 were reported in Egypt. In late 2004, 117 murders in the United Kingdom were being investigated as possible honour killings. In Lebanon, 36 honour crimes were reported between 1996 and 1998.
According to the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, the number of honour killings “is on the rise as the perception of what constitutes honour and what damages it widens.” Its global prevalence suggests that honour crimes are not unique to specific cultures, religions or classes. In fact, the justification has its roots in various social and legal systems around the world.”