An Ancient Practice in the Modern World

An “honor killing” is a murder committed against a family member by their family based on the belief that the victim has brought shame to the family. Victims are deemed to have violated the moral principles of a particular community or region—having sex outside marriage or being a victim of rape could be cause for an honor killing, for example.

One might imagine that with increasing rates of education and conversations about sexism all over the world, the rate of honor killings would be on the decline—but that isn’t the case.

Wikimedia / Creative Commons

Last year, 25-year-old Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brother Waseem Baloch. According to CNN, Waseem was reported to have said “I am proud of what I did,” Waseem said to media after Baloch’s death. He said Qandeel “was bringing dishonor to our family,” and noted that “girls are born to stay home and follow traditions”—and that she “never did.” Waseem believed that he would be remembered with pride for murdering his sister.

Days after Qandeel’s murder, two Pakistan sisters—Kosar and Gulzar Bibi, 22 and 28—were shot dead by their brother on the eve of their weddings as they prepared to marry men they had chosen themselves.

Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy produced the Oscar-winning documentary A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness in 2015 to tell the story of a Saba, a 19-year-old Pakistani woman who survived an honor killing by her father and brother who had shot her in the face and thrown her into a river to drown. Her crime? Marrying a man her family did not approve of.

These high-profile cases ultimately resulted in a law closing loopholes around persecuting those who commit honor killings. Obaid-Chinoy’s film challenged even the Pakistani Prime Minister to consider harsher penalties for the practice. The law instates mandatory life sentence for perpetrators—compared to the previous practice of those who commit honor killings receiving pardon after asking for forgiveness from other family members.

Honor killings are said to have increased significantly between 1989 and 2009, with women constituting 93 percent of victims. 5,000 honor killings occur internationally each year, with 1,000 occurring in India and 1,000 occurring in Pakistan. Although honor killings are prevalent among people in Islamic regions such as the Middle East and North Africa, they are not proscribed by Islam but instead are rooted in ancient tribal customs—and at the core of the practice is not religion, but gender bias.

In Libya, rape victims who become pregnant are murdered by their own families. In South Africa, queer women are subjected to honor killings or “corrective rape.” In Sialkot, southwest of Lahore, teenager Anum Ishaq Masih was killed by her brother because she wanted to marry a Christian. In Jordan, a minister was involved in the honor killing of his sister for marrying a Muslim man. In Turkey, the number of honor killings increased from 66 in 2002 to 953 in the first seven months of 2009.

“Fundamentally,” Heather Barr, a senior researcher on women’s rights at Human Rights Watch in London, said in an interview with W24, “honor killing is one of the most brutal expressions of patriarchy.”

Ultimately, an honor killing is the murder of a woman for having a voice or making a decision on her own. Even when the woman is the victim in cases of rape, it is up to her to secretly get an abortion or be killed for bringing shame to the family’s name.

It is time for this harmful traditional practice to be dealt with and treated like the serious issue that it is. The rate of honor killing should be on the decline—not rising yearly.

Onimiya Faith is a law graduate and a content writer passionate about human welfare, lifestyle and beauty. You can contact her at onimiyafaith@gmail.com.

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Comments

  1. Bernice Richard says:

    Wow.. interesting Piece .. it is such a barbaric practise and I hope it would be stopped

  2. “The rate of honor killing should be on the decline – not rising yearly”. The very last sentence in the post, kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth does it not? About 5,000 honor killings per year and yet this issue seems to be on the back burner for much of our society. Women being oppressed in yet another manner, and they are absolutely powerless to do anything about it in most cases because of how we as man have painted our female counterparts to be the subservient little dolls they truly are not. It is 2017 and women are stronger than they ever have been and capable of doing anything a man can.
    The more we, as a society, objectify women and bring their sexuality as something we use against them, the deeper the whole we are digging and the more we are allowing our beloved mothers and sisters of the world to be tortured.
    I cannot imagine the possibility of not being able to pick the woman I would want to live my years out with. The fact that in some parts of the world women are not only being forced into marriages they do not want, but they are also being slaughtered for attempting to marry the man (or woman) they want to spend the rest of their lives with. If my mother or sister were to have been raped by another man, last thing I would be worried about would be the possible baby that could come out of the situation and focus on the person that defiled my family member. Obviously not everyone thinks the same, nor was brought up the same, but with the advancements in every other field the past several decades one would think that this sexist behavior by men would be a thing of the past.

  3. W. A. Washington says:

    You might mean prescribed (not proscribed).

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