Honor Killings

Honor killings are defined as the killing of women in order to cleanse a family's honor. Many believe that they should be treated as a form of domestic violence. International Law has developed somewhat to try to protect women in some countries from these atrocities. Women are not necessarily killed because they want to break from family tradition, but because they tried to take control of their own body. In Pakistan, for example, there were over 1,000 victims in 1999. Pakistani Parliament defends the practice. The right to life of women is conditional on their obeying societal norms and traditions. A woman is an object of value who can shame men or family by seeking their own marriage partner, object to male violence, or seek a divorce.

Virginity is often what measures a woman's honor in most countries. Often, women are subject to virginity testing to see if their hymens are intact to prove their purity and faithfulness. A woman's virginity is the property of the men around her. First her father, and later her husband. It is seen as part of her dowry given to her husband. A woman's virginity is guarded by community and family members both externally, by her behavior and dress code, and internally, by her intact hymen. It is considered shameful for a woman to be seen with male non-family members.

The community pressure upon a family to rid themselves of a "stained" daughter is intense. Under Turkish law, killing an immediate blood relative is punishable by death, but if the person is caught in the act of adultery or if there is a suspicion of illicit behavior, it is seen as "heavy provocation" and the sense is 1/8 of its severity. Judges often consider tradition and community pressure as just caught to lighten a sentence. Article 340 of the Jordan Penal Code states:

"He who discovers his wife or female relative committing adultery and kills, wounds, or injures one or both of them is exempted from any penalty."

People say it is not a religious tradition, but a cultural one. Much blame is often placed upon the Islamic religion, to which many people protest. Often times, honor killings are performed by persons of Christian or Jewish faiths.

At times, a woman is raped and then is punished for the crime by death, while her rapist is seen as innocent and goes free. If the woman decides to prosecute the rape, she cannot go to court. Only her father or brother can go in her place. Families often have a relative under the age of eighteen carry out the killing because a juvenile defendant will serve a brief term in a detention center and will be released without a criminal record. There are only a few women hotline support groups that are only in some countries. They include services for counseling as well as hymen-repair operations. Often, the only protection for women is their own imprisonment, but this is not a pleasant option.

One of the saddest cases is of a four-year old girl in Palestine who was raped by a twenty-five year old man. She was left to bleed to death by her family because she had dishonored them. She survived, but her honor is considered to be marred for life.

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