What are called “honour killings”. Israa Ghrayeb, Qandeel Baloch and the many others who’ve died in what are called “honor killings”. It’s thousands of women murdered around the world every year. So what is an honour killing? Why is it […]
What are called “honour killings”. Israa Ghrayeb, Qandeel Baloch and the many others who’ve died in what are called “honor killings”.
It’s thousands of women murdered around the world every year. So what is an honour killing? Why is it still happening? And how can these murders be stopped?
It’s tough to even use the term honour killings because there’s nothing honourable about women being killed to supposedly save face.
We’re going to look into why it’s happening in a bit. But first let’s rewind to a murder that got thousands of people protesting. It happened in Jordan.
Witnesses said they saw a young woman being chased out of her house by her father who then beat her to death with a brick in the street. Some in the neighborhood reportedly saw him sit down and drink tea next to his daughter’s body.
We know that the victim was a divorced woman in her late 30s. She had been living in her family home but at one point she went to a women’s facility saying she was experiencing domestic abuse.
A few days later she was back at her parents house and killed not long afterwards. According to the United Nations 50,000 women around the world were killed by their intimate partners or family members in 2017. Honour killings make up a part of those numbers.
The UN estimates it’s about 5,000 every year. And Ahlam’s murder is just a recent high-profile case. In 2019 in Palestine 21-year old Israa Ghrayeb was thrown off a balcony because she was seen in public with her fiance. Israa survived the fall only to be killed while she was in hospital by her father and brother.
A nurse recorded this video. You can hear Israa screaming for help. In India it was the caste system that nearly killed Kausalya Shankar. She and her husband were beaten in broad daylight by her family because he was from a lower caste.
She survived but he died. And then there was Saba, a 19-year-old from Pakistan who was shot in the face and thrown into a river by her father and uncle for marrying a man without her family’s approval. Saba survived.
And her story featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary Girl in the River. We spoke to the film’s director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and asked her what drives these men to kill members of their own family. And that construct of honour is often attached to a woman’s body or her behaviour.
And some men claim that loss of honour in the family and the communityi55 can only be restored by killing the woman. And it’s not just women who are targeted. Men and LGBTQ people are also murdered. It’s just not as common. So why are they still happening? Activists say it has a lot to do with changing times.
More young people are asserting themselves and their rights. It’s what happened with Qandeel Baloch in 2016. She was a 26-year-old social media star in Pakistan. Her killer was her brother. And those structures are based on old concepts about ownership that go way back.
So how do we change that mindset? Well activists say one of the ways is to change the laws. In Jordan a killer can get their sentence reduced if a settlement is reached with the victim’s family.
Thing is the killer is the victim’s family. A sentence can also be taken down to just six months if the killing happened in a “fit of fury”. So activists want those laws gone not only to bring justice to victims but to stop the crimes happening at all.
Some outdated laws have recently been ditched. In 2017 Jordan repealed a law that allowed rapists to escape punishment if they married their victims.
It’s a first step that sends a strong message. And it’s that kind of work raising awareness and lobbying for better laws that campaigners say will save lives. And they’re not prepared to wait for generations.