Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Honor Killings on the rise in Palestine

As order has disintegrated in Palestine their has been a rise in killings known as "Honor Killings." An Honor Killing occurs when a woman is suspected of having an "illicit relationship" family members kill the woman in order to cleanse the families honor. Over the last 50 years these types of killings have increased. If someone admits to an Honor Killing the sentence is just 6 months in jail. This is not a fair punishment for killing someone. This sentence encourages future Honor Killings because the sentence is so light. A member of a particular family doesn't mind spending 6 months in jail if it means cleansing the family. There have already been 21 Honor Killings on the West Back and 25 more in Gaza.

One may argue that these Honor Killings can be justified by cultural relativism, because in Islamic law an unmarried woman found guilty of having an affair can be sentenced to 100 lashes, and for a married woman, the sentence is death by stoning. However, some of these killings may not even be Honor Killings, may not even be Honor Killings. The killings of Wafa Wahda and her sisters Sima and Eman el-Adel by their brother was said to be Honor killings, but it is believed that they had an inheritance dispute.

What is to be done about these killings when the government is in such array that it has other matters to attend to? The sentence is astonishingly light and something needs to be done, so that these killings do not continue.


ERS said...

Robby, thanks for blogging about this.

I am not a cultural relativist, but a believer in universal human rights.

The West Bank Palestinians are subject to Jordanian law. And there are three Jordanian penal code articles--articles 97, 98, and 340--that offer leniency to the perpetrators of these crimes such that the average sentence is six months.

It isn't unheard of for the "honor" killings defense to be invoked not only for murders related to inheritance, but also for other murders that have nothing to do with so-called family honor.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

danielle.ja said...

Although one may support honor killings as culturally specific, all human beings have human rights and as such, should be given these rights unless they deny the rights of others. The women who are being subjected to honor killings are not denying the rights of others, so they should not be denied their own rights.
Furthermore, "honor killings" are being used as scapegoats for other crimes that are viewed more harshly by the law. The law of the country must be adjusted so that the rights of persons are not denied wrongfully, and so that certain crimes are effectively punished.
The question, however is, when will the country be able to do so, if ever? Also, who will be able to cause these changes to occur?
While it is clear that human rights are being denied, what is unclear is how these rights will be resored, if ever.

Karen Tintori said...

Cultural relativism is a cop-out when it comes to familial murder. It is time the Western world stop hiding behind the veil of political correctness and speak out against men murdering their wives, sisters, daughters, nieces in the name of "honor."

There is no honor in murdering your women -- ever.

Karen Tintori, author
Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family

ERS said...

Danielle, some countries have already toughened up their laws regarding "honor" killings (e.g., Iraq, Pakistan, and Turkey). There are problems with enforcement, female suicide rates have gone up, but at least these states have begun to send a message to their people that the lives of women have value.

Jordan and Syria, for example, still each have three laws on the books that offer leniency to the killers. Jordan is a dictatorship. . .with a stroke of his pen, King Abdullah II could overturn those laws. Or, if he wants to pretend like Jordan is a democracy, he could employ his leadership skills and his Hashemite heritage to use more traditional methods of influence and consensus decision making on the Islamists and the tribes and others holding back progress toward the same result.

In addition, most of the countries where these crimes take place have signed a number of international human rights agreements and conventions. Jordan has signed at least 17 that it is in violation of simply on "honor" killings alone. Where are the enforcement arms of these agreements? Why is there no accountability, no sanction for violations? I think the U.N. is completely falling down on the job here.

Lastly, the U.S. and other wealthy nations have massive aid programs in some of these countries. Jordan, for example, is one of the leading beneficiaries of American aid, despite having a population of only about six million people. We haven't made any of our aid contingent upon improvements in human rights. We could also be designating some portion of the aid specifically for legal reform, for women's shelters (in Jordan, there isn't even one that will accept people at risk for "honor" killings. . .instead, they are warehoused in prison), for school and mosque education that these crimes are un-Islamic, etc.

There is some very low hanging fruit here. It's not rocket science. I am disappointed at the lack of political will to address this problem and other human rights violations.


Kat said...

I do believe that there are traditions and laws in all cultures that outsiders will not understand. I think these laws and traditions should be respected, and are best delt with by the actual government and people, for they are the ones that understand it the most. Still, according to Ellen Sheeley's above post, these honor killings can sometimes be because of reasons other than illicit relationships-this is wrong. These traditions should be honored by each culture, not used for personal advances! If this is true, I find that sickening.