Stop Honor Killings

by Kristin Wade

In the year 2004, 2,774 women were killed in the name of honor, primarily in the Middle East and Eurasian countries. Honor killings are committed when a relative is thought to bring shame to a family. The murdering of the shamed family member is supposed to restore honor within the family. Actions that can lead to dishonor include not adhering to strict dress codes, walking outside without a male from the family escorting you, or engaging in premarital sex. All of these show how easy it is to be discredited as a young girl in Middle Eastern societies. Because women often lack proper education, they are forced to obey tribal customs that are rooted in religion. This allows women very little control over their own lives and leaves them susceptible to becoming scape goats for issues related to morality and the most common targets in honor killings.

            Women are also viewed more so as objects than as people in Middle Eastern society. This is because when they reach a certain age they are typically married off into a different family. Because of this, their family of origin puts little effort into them, as they will eventually lose their daughter to another family. The family she marries into is also uncaring, as they are unfamiliar with her and have little care for her safety. The murders of these women are also justified in the belief that a single person’s offense to a family’s honor can be retracted if the offender is killed. Another factor that contributes to the high number of women killed each year in the name of honor is how evidence is not even a concern in some cases. By going off of rumors alone, some women have been killed just due to gossip without probable evidence. In the most extreme case of this, a man had his wife killed because he dreamed that she had been unfaithful to him.  However, this is not just to say that all victims are murdered. Some victims have escaped with their lives, but at the expense of disfigurements or after enduring extreme forms of torture. Some women have had acid thrown on their faces only to survive and become outcasts in their communities.  Recently, Pakistani director, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar for directing and producing the film, “Saving Face,” about women disfigured through such attacks and the surgeon, Dr. Mohammad Jawad who has worked to restore both their physical appearances and their dignity.

            One of the main reasons honor killings are still happening today is because those who commit them are rarely punished for their murders. Most murders are premeditated and families sometimes choose the youngest male in the family to commit the murder to attempt to gain leniency. There is also a large bias in many instances, with support coming from law enforcers, judges and even lawyers. Because of this issue, women are also too afraid to come forward if they are raped, for fear of bringing dishonor to their family. Because of all these facets, it is clear to see that women are not only neglected socially and physically, but also legally. Because of this lack of legal defense, there is little they can do if an accusation is brought against them. The punishments for bringing dishonor varies; however, they are all gruesome acts, such as pouring acid on the face, burning or stoning. Because these murders are sometimes unsuccessful, some women may have to live out the rest of their lives with these mutilations, such as waking up every morning to see a disfigured face due to acid burns. These physical scars also translate into emotional scars that are forever engraved in the minds of the victims.

            The best way to combat these injustices is through education. Luckily there are many organizations that aim to do just that. With more people learning about the horrors of honor killings, there will be more pressure placed on these societies that may help end these horrible practices. With enough national pressure, these unfit legal systems will hopefully one day crumble. If you’re interested in lending a helping hand, there are numerous organizations to choose from. One such organization is Sabatina which is run by Sabatina James. This organization seeks to eradicate this archaic practice and help women escape oppression by running an underground railroad system. They accept donations and provide information to those willing to help the cause.