home what'snew resources ask amy news activism antiviolence events marketplace aboutus
Spotlight on: Honor Killings
Back to main Spotlight page
In Jordan, one woman was knifed to death because she wanted to continue her education and refused to marry the man chosen for her by her family.  Another woman was shot five times because she ran away from her husband who continually beat and raped her.  Another had her throat slit because her husband suspected her of adultery - he saw her speaking with a man from their village.   In Pakistan, a young mother of two sons was shot dead by a family acquaintance because she had sought divorce from an abusive husband.  Another woman was shot dead in front of a tribal gathering after she had been repeatedly raped by a local government official.

These murders are based on the belief that a woman is the property of her family.  Should the woman’s virtue come into question, for whatever reason, or if she refuses to obey her father, husband or brother, her family’s “honor” is thought to be disgraced and the woman must be killed by a male relative to restore the family’s good name in the community.  Often, women are killed because of mere suspicion that they have engaged in illicit sexual activity. 

It is estimated by the United Nations Population Fund that as many as 5000 women and girls are murdered by family members each year in so-called “honor killings” around the world.  In Pakistan alone, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, more than 1000 women were victims of these crimes in 1999. According to the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, “honor killings” have been reported in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda and the United Kingdom.  

These crimes are socially sanctioned in many countries and the killers are treated with lenience. Although it may be noted that so-called “honor killings” tend to be prevalent in countries with a majority Muslim population, many Islamic leaders and scholars have condemned the practice and denied claims that it is based on religious doctrine.

In some countries such as Jordan, Morocco and Syria, “honor crimes” are also legally sanctioned and defense of the family honor is considered a mitigating factor.  Article 340 of the Penal Code of Jordan, for example, provides for an exemption from penalty if a man kills his wife or female relative after finding her “committing adultery with another.”  It provides for a reduction in penalty if a man kills his wife or female relative after finding her “with another in an unlawful bed.”  Similarly, Article 548 of the Penal Code of Syria also provides an exemption from penalty if a man kills or injures his wife or female after finding her committing adultery or other “illegitimate sexual acts with another.”  The law also provides for a reduction in penalty for a man who kills or injures his female relative after catching her in a “suspicious state with another.”   Also of concern is the way in which legislation in various countries awards lesser punishment in cases where the victim is considered to have “provoked” the crime by violating cultural norms.

In many countries, there are few available resources to protect women and victims are placed in state custodial or correctional institutions.   In Jordan, for example, there is no women’s shelter.  There are only state-run women’s prisons where women are incarcerated for their own safety - to be protected from their own families.  Ironically, their release can only be secured by a male relative.   

Equality Now is currently campaigning against “honor killings” in Jordan.  For more information on the campaign and to take action against “honor killings,” please consult our website at: http://www.equalitynow.org/english/actions/action_1802_en.html

P.S. Since this column was written, Article 340 of the Jordanian Penal Code, which exempted from punishment men who kill a female family member found "committing adultery", has been repealed. Even though this constitutes a step in the right direction and is very welcome, perpetrators of so called "honor" crimes still benefit inappropriately from the provisions in Articles 97 and 98, which allow for a reduction in sentence if a man is "provoked" into killing. Moreover, despite the urgent need for national women's shelters where women may find refuge and support, the government of Jordan still has not followed up on its pledge that women in Jordan would soon have access to such facilities. It is still critical therefore to press for penal reform and the urgent provision of shelters in Jordan. A full update will be available by hyperlink shortly.

Back to main Spotlight page


home | what's new | resources | ask amy | news | activism | anti-violence
events | marketplace | about us | e-mail us | join our mailing list

©1995-2005 Feminist.com All rights reserved.