Having a boyfriend that your parents don’t like and don’t approve of? Then you deserve to die! And no, this is not a bad joke.
Although it is hard to believe that it can be this simple to end somebody’s life, this is actually happening in some parts of the world and it is called honour killing. An honour killing, also known as shame killing or honour crime, is a homicide “committed by a male on a female relative considered to have brought dishonour to the family, usually through sexual activity forbidden by religion or tradition”. Through this act, the shame that was brought upon the family is “washed away” so they can keep their heads high again in their society and family.
We all know that around the world there are numerous and diverse cultures that have their own rules, traditions, practices and taboos that make them unique. Some of them have been around for centuries and they are available in every aspect of life, including sex. However, what happens when what most of us consider a fun, playful and romantic act is closely related to death? While some us cannot put the words ‘sex’ and ‘death’ in the same sentence, others are very familiar with this combination. In many Islamic countries and in the Middle East, honour killings are not something uncommon.
The reasons for being the victim of an honour killing are usually related to sexual acts and different sexual activity, including refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by the family, wanting a divorce, having sex outside the marriage, having homosexual relations or even being the victim of rape.
Therefore, if your husband is abusing you and you want a divorce, you should remain silent. If you do not want to marry a man 40 years older than you, you should remain silent. If you have been the victim of a rape, you should remain silent. Because if you dare say a word and bring these problems to the family’s and to the public’s knowledge then you can say that you have dug your own grave. No one is interested in your reasons, if they are valid or not, and most surely no one cares if you have been a victim or not.
An example that strengthens the above statements is a murder case from Canada that appeared in the Daily Mail last year. An Afghan man, his wife and his son were charged with first degree murder after killing their daughters because they were dating boys that the parents did not approve. There is no information about two of the daughters’ partners, but one of them married her Pakistani boyfriend and this brought great shame on the family. Thus, they had to be murdered so that the honour of the family can be restored. According to the recordings of the court, the father was not at all consumed with guilt and declared that he would have done it again “even if he came back to life 100 times”. In his way of seeing things, this is no way in which a daughter should behave.
And similar cases have happened all around the world and we keep on hearing more and more about them. But these are only a few of them that happened in non-Islamic countries and therefore, got the chance to be heard. However, these might happen far more often than we think in Islamic states and in the Middle East. And no one dares to talk about them and make a change there. Nobody knows how many girls and women are killed every year in the name of honour. The numbers cannot be precise because the murders are not reported and the murderers are not punished. And mostly become this is not viewed as a cold-blooded murder, but more as a necessity, as the only chance of a family to go back to its peaceful and not stained status.
So what can we, those who are privileged to have a saying in our sexual and life choices, do to help? We must raise awareness; we must not remain silent. We have to make people realize that this is still happening in our modern times, even if they are very well hidden. We must invest in proper sexual education, and in education in general, and make all the necessary efforts to implement it in Middle Eastern countries.
Of course some will say that terrorism and bombing are far more important problems than sex. Nevertheless, if we would stop for a moment to think about the causes that led to them, we might actually find out that one of the steps that helped this mentally grow is actually education. Without education, there will be only inequality, discrimination, violence, slavery and, ultimately, death. But, if we put our minds to it, united, we can fight this.
So let’s arm ourselves and let’s make a difference, because, as Nelson Mandela said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to chance the world”.