Thursday, 7 July 2011
They're not honour killings, they're honour murders
Millions of people around the world, mainly women, live in fear of murder by relatives over choices they have made in their personal lives. These are commonly referred to as 'honour killings'.
The UN estimates that 5,000 women are murdered every year while Robert Fisk has reported that the true figure could be much higher.
The practice is found mainly in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, but is not an 'Islamic' issue. Honour murders occur in other communities in the region, for example the stoning to death of a Iraqi Yazidi girl in 2007 (pictured above, see graphic report below) lead to the massacre of up to 800 members of that community.
Honour murders have also occurred in Christian, Sikh and Hindu communities. The practice is now found in Europe and other parts of the world, but thankfully none have been recorded in Ireland so far.
Women, and sometimes men, are murdered for a variety of reasons, marrying or falling in love with someone of a different religion or caste, marrying someone the family does not approve of or for refusing to accept an arranged marriage.
Victims of rape, gay people and women who refuse to wear Islamic dress are also murdered by their families. Justice systems in many countries turn a blind eye to these crimes. Others are pressurised by their families into committing suicide.
The number of honour murders is said to be on the increase, which could be the result of women and men no longer being willing to submit to oppressive social rules.
These despicable acts are carried out in the name of a family's 'honour,' although you might have imagined that there is nothing more dishonourable than murdering a member of your own family.
In some ways they are similar to the lynchings of African Americans that occurred in the USA in that members of a marginalised group which is considered inferior by the dominant group are killed for the perceived breaking of social 'norms'.
I believe it is time to stop calling these crimes 'honour killings' and to use the term honour murders instead. Murder, by definition, is always wrong, while 'killing' can be justified in some contexts (war, self-defence etc).
All honour murders are wrong and by using this term we can hasten the day when they are considered totally abhorrent in every corner of the world.