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Honor-Based Violence

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Honor-based violence (also known as gender-based violence) ranks as one of the highest human rights issues facing our world today and violence towards women is a universal and widespread issue. In my opinion, one of the most unjustifiable yet complicated forms of violence towards women are honor violences or “honor killings.” Honor killings are an ancient practice in which men kill relatives in the name of family honor for forced or suspected sexual activity outside of marriage. Human Rights Watch defines “honor killings” as “acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family.” These acts of vengeance can include refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being the victim of sexual assault, asking for divorce, or having sex prior to marriage. Victims of honor violence are targeted because their behavior is deemed to be shameful to cultural, traditional or religious norms.

Many of the people who kill in the name of honor practice extreme forms of Islam. However, it is not just the Islam religion that has practiced honor killings, followers of Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Christianity have all used honor killings as a religious practice at some point in history. There is also great debate around if honor killings are even part of the Islam religion as stoning to death for both men and women can be traced back to pre-Islamic tribal traditions and are not part of the Islamic code or what is written in the Quran. Journalist Rana Husseini states: “Honor killings are part of a culture, not a religion, and occur in Arab communities in the United States and many counties.” Honor killings are also often a result of patriarchal views on women and the position of women in society through out our history. Since these societies are male dominated, women are expected to uphold the “honor” or standards set fourth by their culture and families. Since honor killings are a part of a culture, it makes them a very complex issue to solve.

There are about 5,000 honor killings per year; however, this number may not be accurate as honor-based violence can often go unknown. Honor-based violence has been prevalent in Jordan and according to CNN, “almost half of boys and one in five girls in Jordan’s capital city, Amman, believe that killing a woman who has “dishonored” or shamed, her family is justifiable.” According to UNICEF, there are an average of 23 honor killings per year in Jordan. Due to Jordan’s patriarchal past, it is not surprising that honor killings still remain a part of their culture. Up until 2001, laws stated a man who catches his wife, or one of his female close relatives, committing adultery with another, and he kills wounds or injures one or both of them, is exempted from any penalty. Even though the laws have since changed, honor-based violence remains a serious issue for women living in Jordan.

Honor killings are an extreme form of violence towards women. I believe there needs to be a spread of awareness around the issue in order to help stop the murdering of innocent women. In my opinion, the murder of women in the name of “honor” is a discrimination of human rights and an unjustifiable form of violence. Since the issue is very complex and there are a lot of factors that come into play, it is important to use rhetoric and discourse to come up with a solution to combat the issue.

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