Unspeakable Savagery Against Women

According to Wikipedia, “honor killing” is generally the murder of a female member of a family by the family, when they (and maybe the wider community) believe her to have brought dishonor upon them. A woman can be targeted commonly for: refusing an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce – even from an abusive husband, or committing adultery or fornication. These killings result from the perception that defense of family honor justifies killing a woman whose behavior dishonors her family.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that the annual world-wide total of honor- killing victims may be as high as 5,000 women.

The following four atrocious crimes grabbed headlines mainly because they happened in North America. One cannot even begin to guess how many cases get swept under the rug each year in countries where there is no law to protect women from such bestial acts called honor killings.

In January this year in Lewisville, Texas, two teenage sisters were shot to death in a taxi, allegedly by their Egyptian Muslim father, for dating non-Muslim boys.

A month earlier, in Mississauga, Ontario, a Pakistani teenage girl was strangled to death by her father for refusing to wear the hijab, or headscarf and for wearing Western clothes while at school.

In July, a Pakistani immigrant in Georgia, Atlanta, strangled his daughter because she wanted to end her arranged marriage.

In upstate New York a few weeks earlier, an Afghanistan immigrant was charged with attempted murder after repeatedly stabbing his 19-year old younger sister. Her crime? She had been going to clubs, wearing immodest clothing and planning to leave the family for a new life in New York City.

Even with a protective law in place, there is no guarantee that women’s basic right to live is tenable. In March 2005 the Pakistani government allied with Islamists to reject a bill which sought to strengthen the law against the practice of honor killings. Subsequently the bill was brought up again and in November 2006 it passed, although no one was sure that the law would help women.

That skepticism has proven to be well-founded. According to this report, on July 13, five Pakistani women were reportedly taken from their village Baba Kot in the Department of Jafferabad to a deserted area where they were buried alive. Three of the victims were teenagers and were beaten, shot, and thrown into a ditch, for allegedly defying the wishes of elders and wanting to have marriages in a civil court. If it weren’t for the efforts of human rights activists in digging up the dirt, this story of beastly cruelty against women would not have seen the light of day.

But just as hideous as the murders themselves is the alacrity with which a lawmaker from Baluchistan jumped to defend the honor killings as “our norms”, saying that they should not be “highlighted negatively”. What civilized person would say it’s a “norm” to violently end another person’s life at will, irrespective of sex, culture or religion? The fact that the victims of such crimes are often of the weaker sex makes the acts all the more heinous and barbaric.

In India, more than 5,000 brides are killed annually for not bringing sufficient dowries to the grooms’ families, according to UNICEF. Such atrocities, not dissimilar in nature to honor killings, are carried out in the same belief that women are just commodities owned by men, which can be traded or discarded at men’s leisure.

One example was cited in Amnesty International’s 2008 Report: in Egypt in 2007, nearly 250 women were killed by violent husbands or family members in the first six months, and two women were raped every hour. The Report says that women and girls suffer disproportionately in peace time and in conflict, at the hands of the state, the community and the family.

“They are beaten, raped, mutilated and killed with impunity. Such violence comes as a direct result of endemic gender discrimination perpetuated by social and political institutions……..”

“Violence against women impoverishes society economically, politically and culturally. It limits the crucial role that women should take in the development of their communities.”

If only nation states could be made to stop treating the issue with silence and apathy. Any nation state, community or family who condones femicide or violence against women even in silence has blood on its hands. Nation states in this category should be hard pressed by the international community to educate their illiterate communities about the evils of gender discrimination and the value of life regardless of sex.