According to the United Nations, 5000 women are murdered every year around the world in the name of ‘honour’. However, it is highly likely that the numbers are greater than indicated as many cases do go unreported. Honour killings are prevalent around the world but are widely reported in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. It is important to note that honour killings are heavily rooted in certain cultures around the world. The term ‘honour killing’ refers to the killing of an individual by members of their family done in order to protect the honour of the family. More often than not, women are the victims of honour killings. Honour killings are often committed in relation to religion, caste or sexuality, on the basis that the behaviours of the victims are perceived to have brought shame to the family. The underlying issue here is the misogyny or prejudice against women. In patriarchal societies, men believe that the behaviour of a woman is linked to the honour of her family. It is unfair to say that all men are misogynistic. However, some still strongly believe in misogynistic ideologies.
Banaz Mahmod was an Iraqi Kurdish woman who lived in London. Banaz left her violent and abusive marriage and later on was in a relationship with someone of her own choosing. This resulted in her being tortured, raped and strangled by her family members for allegedly bringing shame to the family. Banaz did seek police protection after overhearing a phone conversation between her family members about the plan to kill her. However, the police did not make an effort to protect her. Currently, the perpetrators are all serving time for the crime committed. It is evident that the police did not do their best in protecting Banaz and maybe if they had done a better job, she might still be alive. Banaz was murdered in the year 2006 and as of yet, honour killings are still rampant around the world.
Qandeel Baloch was a well-known Pakistani celebrity and model who was killed in the name of ‘honour’. Qandeel’s brother confessed to killing her purely for the reason that she posted provocative pictures on social media which was deemed shameful to him. Her brother was sentenced to life in prison but later on, the court acquitted him because his parents forgave him, which amounted to a legal pardon under Islamic law. Her brother stated ‘’I have no regrets about killing her’’. How does one admit to committing murder in a blatant manner without any regrets and still manage to walk away scot-free? A legal pardon should not be allowed for cases of such a nature. Shortly after, the Pakistani parliament passed an anti-honour killing law, resulting in harsher punishment for these crimes. The passing of such laws will be ineffective without proper enforcement.
Recently in India, the police arrested a man for decapitating his teenage daughter in a rage over her relationship with a man he did not approve of. It is clear that there has not been any progress in reducing the rate of honour killings.
The reason why honour killings are still rampant is due to the fact that most of the perpetrators are rarely held accountable for their crimes. This sends the wrong message to the men who will be of the opinion that they can murder in the name of ‘honour’. The law does not seem to be protecting the women and they are not safe even in their own homes. More stringent laws need to be enacted to protect the victims and punish the perpetrators. While it is impossible to bring back the victims who have been murdered, we should not let these victims have died in vain. Unless and until there are changes in the mindset of society, it is unlikely that any progress will be made. There is nothing remotely honourable about ‘honour’ killings.
– Article by Monishaa Sri