Honour killing is the murder of someone by a family relative over a belief that the person has brought shame and dishonour to the family. The killing, however, is done to restore such honour back to the family.
Although some men have also been victims of honour killings, women and girls account for over 90% of all victims or survivors.
The crime is mostly committed by a father, brother or uncle to a woman or girl who has been raped, had pre or extra-marital affair, refuses to marry a suitor, marries without consent, demands a divorce and some other seemingly wrong behaviours. Honour killings are usually carried out even when the allegations are false.
The exact number of honour killings is unknown as countries lack reliable data and records. Some estimates by the United Nations suggest that about 5,000 women and girls are victims of honour killings every year.
The Middle East and South Asia particularly India and Pakistan record the highest cases of honour killings and generally all other gender-based violence. Nevertheless, other countries including the US, UK and Germany also have some cases of honour killings and honour crimes.
Honour killings have been outlawed in many countries with up to 25 years imprisonment. Unfortunately, honour killing is usually done with the entire support of the family and so when the case is prosecuted, the family claims to have forgiven the offender and pleads to drop all charges. This makes it difficult for states to convict offenders.
States are beginning to refine laws to avoid family pleads. In Pakistan particularly, offenders will face up to 25 years prison terms and families cannot plead to drop charges against offenders.
Another issue with prosecuting offenders is that some cases are disguised as suicide with fabricated suicide notes.Honour killings stem from deep-rooted patriarchal cultures and are nurtured by prolonged systemic and cultural discrimination and injustice against women and girls. Click To Tweet
Honour killings are also against international human right laws as they violate women’s rights to life and discrimination based on gender.
Islam plays a vital role in the discussions of honour killings. While some interpretations of some Islamic laws (such as the criminalisation of pre or extra-marital affairs) may indirectly support honour killings, the crime has also been committed by non-Muslims and recorded in non-Islamic religions.
Honour killings stem from deep-rooted patriarchal cultures and are nurtured by prolonged systemic and cultural discrimination and injustice against women and girls.
In July 2016, social media Pakistani star Qandeel Baloch was strangled to death by her brother for bringing dishonour to her family. The 26-year-old was regarded as the first social media celebrity in Pakistan. Her confidence to break strict social bans and taboos was seen as a shame to her family.
Another is 18-year-old Zeenat Rafiq who was burnt to death by her mother for marrying a man without her parent’s consent. The mother who has now been sentenced to death confessed that her daughter’s action brought shame to the family.
A very recent case in May 2020 was 14-year-old Romina Ashrafi who was beheaded by her father for eloping with her 35-year-old boyfriend.