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Friday, February 8, 2008

Violent Traditions: Crimes of Honour

There are 3 crimes in this world, either from history or in this day and age, that I hold a steadfast opinion about; terrorism, torture and rape.

That opinion, to put it bluntly, it sickens me.

I was reading the Star newspaper, World section - FYI, I always read the World section first – that I can’t help but take to root in my mind about the article from Guardian Newspapers Limited.

The article concerns the practices of forced marriages, marital rape, honour killings and some of other names but still in the same context. In short, when a person dishonours the family name and standing, say, a girl who wants to be a business woman instead of a businessman’s housewife, her rebellion, should she choose to proceed with it, gives her family license to kill her.

Crimes like these are widespread and often hushed up because ‘’s a family matter’.

F**k that.

And I don’t care if your sons, brothers and third-cousin come after me for saying that too.

Anything and everything family matters cover the fruits of the past, the close bonds and the future of the clan. They DO NOT have jurisdiction over a person’s life. Life is God’s gift and death is God’s will. Killing a girl because she rebelled and choose her own path is not ‘honourable’. It’s not even under ‘necessary’.

That’s f**king murder no matter how pretty the family covers it.

Why did they do it? Because going against the family’s wishes, making her own decisions against her elders’ life-long planning scheme shames the family name and standing in the close-knit community and - more dangerously - instil bad ideas into the younger generation and weaken the community as a structure.

No matter how good the maverick’s intentions, if it’s against the out-dated rules of the clan, his or her next step towards individuality would be paid with death. By death, it doesn’t really matter if the maverick truly deserves it or not. Death by dishonour is mostly so that the warning in drummed into others.

Rebel. Get killed.

Why do these families do it? Why do they kill for name and standing? Do they even check properly about the girl’s decision?

Crimes of honour is neither a new thing or a religious thing. It’s a cultural thing. Ever noticed that a really big attribute of honour killings were done by Asian families?

It’s a practise that dates back for so long; I rather not bother you with the background and reasoning on what started this stupidity. But here’s something all cultures agree upon.

Women are beautiful creatures. They should have fine skin and be adorned with jewels and silk. The prettiest women get the most charming man with lots of money and social standing. Basically, a prince charming.

The so-called prince charming will pay big money to the girl’s family. They have a big wedding and everybody lives happily ever after. The couple have kids and the cycle continues.

That’s the mindset mentality. Now imagine if that girl, instead of marrying her third-cousin (inbreeding to keep all the family fortunes within the family), she instead wants to go to New York, get her degree in fashion design, earn sponsors for her clothing line and she met a real charming (non-related) gentleman who, might not be so rich, but he loves her and supports business venture.

She’s going to be living far away. She’s working. She’s going to marry a white man.

Yup, 3 strikes, she’s out. Papa, get the gun.

Here’s a contradiction. Majority of the reported honour killings cases are highlighted in those close-knit communities that are outside the native country. An Indian community in Canada had an unsolved murder case that had all ties to honour killings. Several Middle-Eastern communities in Britain had unsolved cases of rebellious girls gone missing or got murdered.

An odd contradiction indeed. One would think that more honour crimes should have been highlighted in the native country itself, being with the most number of ‘honourable’ families.

Here’s what I think. There are honour crimes in those native countries.

It’s hidden.

Here’s an example of the government quietly supports honour killings. In Jordan, if a woman tries to go to the police force for protection from her family against possible honour killing, she herself would be put to jail under ‘improper conduct’ since she approached the police force without a male relation (who wants to kill her). She’ll serve a prison sentence of humiliation and when that time is up - lo behold - her family will be notified her detention and she'll be returned to them.

So they can kill her.

Another reason why honour killings are so rampant in overseas communities is because of isolation and close-minded factions.

Asian countries, for a great deal of the last 2 centuries, had been invaded by all the major first-world nations. America, French, British, Dutch, etc had entered Asian countries under a dirty flag of goodwill before they took all our resources. And the people.

This history is still fresh in the minds of the elders in these close-knit honourable communities. It was the first-generation who had to wade through Western prejudices to carve a good-sized self-sufficient group for they-who-got-dumped-as-factory-workers-in-foreign-soil.

To quote Asians are for Asians, the elders remained a tight clique. They also remained as close-minded and harbour their own prejudices. Second-generation and third generation have absorbed these prejudices since infancy. Any new-fangled nonsense invented by their old slave-masters should never be accepted by their pure kin.

That’s how they build their so-called honour; by being ignorant of the changing times, ignorant of the more open-minded new generation.

Likewise, some maybe are abandoning old traditions. Some maybe got fed-up of the obligations and high expectations. Most wanted to express new ideas, their own ideas, and their own legacy in the world that has nothing to do with association of high-born or chaste-blood.

In my heart, nothing can justify honour killings.

Honour killings, death caused by family members, strike a deep cord in me. It’s really stupid, showing the stupidity, the backwardness and the freaking brutality that these families can impose on their own members, using fear to brainwash the true value of what honour is.

My thoughts on this won’t be the end though, because there are more to crimes of honour than brutality towards freedom of individual mind. True family honour comes in support. Love. Integrity. Open-mindedness. And above all, the right for sharing lives, not controlling lives.

4 Minds bloomed here too...:

Karen said...

Thank you for speaking out on this important subject. We are our sisters' keepers.

Murder is murder, and no woman deserves to be murdered at the hands of a male relative.

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

ERS said...

Appreciate the outrage.

Actually, the situation in Jordan is not quite as you wrote. It's true that some at-risk girls and women are warehoused in prison, but it isn't because they've gone to the police unaccompanied. Women in Jordan can go out unaccompanied. They are warehoused in prison because there are no women's shelters or safehouses for them. None. Not one. So they remain in prison for an average of seven years, while the people who pose the risk to them walk free.

In Jordan, there are still three penal code articles on the books--Articles 97, 98, and 340--that offer leniency to the perpetrators of dishonor killings. The average sentence for these crimes is just six months.

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

Quickening said...

Firstly, thank you to both of you. I'm so glad that there are those who look for for women like these.

Honour killings really hurt in my heart, beyond that I'm a woman, a Muslim and member of a close-knit family.

@karen: A lot of these threats-of-death, I think, are meant to keep women safe from harm and dishonour. But somewhere in the family tree, obligations blew out of proportions. Death by a kinsman is just ... unreal.

@ers: Thank you so very much for your insight. I stand corrected on womem escort in public. I'm also glad there are people of Jordan who can help to discourage this, no matter how small.

Warehousing for the girls to protect them is not enough and can have reverse effects on their emotional well-being. It isolates them and humiliates them. When they get out, if they ever, they'll be subjected to accusations and who would help them? Seven years is long enough to be disowned, forgotten.

Somebody ought to murder the fellow who wrote those leniency articles. We can make it as 'stupidity killing'.

I'm keeping up to date on honour crimes around the world. If there's any website or community helping to oppose this, I'm be very glad of the information. :)


Raising Mercury said...

Yup, 3 strikes, she’s out. Papa, get the gun------------> this line really hit me =( yeah, read about these honour killings before.. suddenly feel terribly blessed to at least be given the right for my individuality =) 3 cheers for that.. i just wonder right, you know those honor killing novels? more anti-islamic novels? that claim that its a true story? i realised that sometimes it isnt, just a ploy done by some other people to confuse the public or give an ill name to islam =( sad huh? but of course dont deny that honor killings still happen... some traditions shouldnt be kept.. thx for sharing =) brilliant writer you are mdm quickening! hugs..

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