An honor crime is abroad term that relates to specific crimes that are viewed by the perpetrators as justifiable acts in accordance with the accepted values and traditions. The common principle in such crimes is their excuse to explain attempts by the aggressors and excusers to explain and sideline crime against humanity on the grounds of cultural norms and traditions which do not merit such actions in the 21st century.
The archaic definition is often taken as enshrined in the modesty of virginity and the selfless love of women, which requires strict compliance and a deviation, is not culturally accepted, and taken to translate immoral behavior which threatens honor to the man, family and the entire community. This requires for the aggrieved to seek retribution for breach of honor that is defined by the immoral behavior (Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly 2004).
This paper contests the ground for such actions in reference to honor crimes, which in worst scenarios has led to the death of the victim
Case for Honor Crimes
In 2001, the court in Manchester held a defense against Mr. Faqir, who was accused of stabbing his 24 year old daughter Shahida repeatedly for allegedly talking to a young man on the ground that the daughter actions brought shame to the family, hence provoking his wrath. Based on this case, one may conclude that the father’s action was not malicious, but was merely driven by his cognitive behavior that was developed by his culture (Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly 2004).
The horrific case of the Safya Hussein, who was sentenced to death in Northern Nigeria, also questions the arguments of honor killing, given the circumstance surrounding the ground. The women in this case had a child outside wedlock, which was perceived as having brought shame to the community, and hence required the decisive element of the sentence met on her. The words used by the perpetrator reinforced the understanding of honor killing by justifying its excuse. This was to mitigate the crime committed (Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly 2004).
In the above two cases, the criminal court was not supposed to be hoodwinked into allowing perpetrators of honor crimes to set Agenda by resorting to unacceptable, and self defined cultural norms found in tradition as a measure to mitigate crime. It is the responsibility of the criminal justice system to send the message, that crime should not be taken as excusable offence, and consequently give the perpetrators of crime opportunity to state their own terms and the grounds for mitigating such crimes. This obviously denies the victim of the crime justice to seek redress for the wrong they have done.
Jordan campaign against honor crimes and the laws which discriminate women is a positive trend. In the book –Murder in the Name of Honor by Rana-al- Hussein, who is both a journalist in Jordan and a women right activists, talks about campaigns that drive towards ending the practice of Honor Killing in Jordan. It focuses on article 340 of the Jordanian Law, which protects against murder committed in the name of honor. The clause contained in the Article have various interpretations that stipulates the grounds for a reduction in penalty when people resort to the conventional practice of seeking redistribution for the offense committed in a court of Law (Baumeister& Bushman2013).
Honor crimes have been common in the Arab and Muslim countries including Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. The general impression, is that honor killing has been linked Islam Faith. This feeds to the xenophobic actions against Muslims, contributing to the phenomenon to be used by racists to term this murder, a pious act that is approved by Islam. For instance, in America alone, excluding the Muslim world, between 40 and 50 percent of the women are killed by their husbands and boyfriends, and a further 60 percent are victims of crimes of passion, which cannot qualify as honor crimes. The Hadith offers the right channels for preventing honor crimes, which departs from the common practice that justifies redistributive justice. In fact, there is no evidence in the Quran or Hadith which supports honor Killings (Baumeister& Bushman2013).
Hadith offers the following legal principle that should be considered to prevent honor killings. It states that, legal penalty should follow legal authority, and should have witnesses which is necessary to prevent the shedding of blood by the Muslim accuser. This should further be left in government domain, and individuals should not take upon themselves to act. Allowing this would make the individual act as both the prosecutor and the judge, which is not possible and subverts justice (Smail, 2013).
A typical example is given of Rana Husseini, who reported how a killer was fully aware that killing his sister was against his Islam Faith. When required by the courts to plead for thee case, the accused contradicted his position, by stating that killing according to the Islam faith invited the wrath of God, but had no alternative in his action (Smail, 2013).
A different victim added that his actions were contrary to the Sheria law, while at the same time admitting that society was stronger than religion. The above cases, points to the dilemma that surrounds honor Killings among the Muslims, who in most cases are aware that their actions are wrong, but nevertheless go ahead to commit such offence. Faith thus should not be taken as justification to hide behind the veil of honor killings which in its entirety is wrong (Smail, 2013).
Burke 2000, mention the Western Lifestyle and the independence associated with it, as likely to be used as a pretext for honor killings. He gives an example of a young migrant worker who adjusted too much to the values of her new country. The 15 year old Swedish Iraqi girl, started to copy the Swedish way, which attracted the ire of his brother, who later had to kill her. Based on this example, we recognize the important contribution that the western lifestyle often can play in emancipating women. The danger with the new found freedom, results from the interdependence in the individual way of life, which can conflict with their value system and has an effect on the tradition concept of honor (Loucks, Holt, & Adler, 2013).
For instance, western lifestyle may mean that the women decided on what he wants to wear, where to hangout, who to marry, where to study, all which can be used as scapegoats by those who support honor killing as a pretext for maintaining social order. Here family honor is used to justify punishing women and rob them of their freedom. This should not be the case, since we live in a liberal world, which should guarantee the fundamental human freedoms, thus honor killings should not act as a barrier in subverting women justice by curtailing their freedoms (Loucks, Holt, & Adler, 2013).
Premarital sex, which varies across cultures, has often been used as ground for honor killings. The motive behind this is that impurity is regarded as a dishonor during marriage, that should not be tolerated whatsoever. For example, in 1999, Pela Atroshi was killed by her uncles who learned that she was no longer a virgin, and did not qualify for the Kurdish Traditions marriage. The offence according to the knowledge of the father was punishable by death and was necessary to mitigate for her actions. Responding to this, Websdale 1999 gives a different interpretation of the case. For instance, he says that men from western countries should not hold to the claim for honor to hide behind violence met on women. This means, that rules to virginity should be restrict to individuals, and not tied to the collective group. Thus women who fail the virginity tests should be viewed to have shamed the man personally, and the blame not transferred to the family (Loucks, Holt, & Adler, 2013).
The collective actions behind homicide cases in the event of honor killings, questions their rationale. Offender’s explanations for their motives beat the logic behind collective honor. For instance, in 1999, the Jordanian court sentenced the 34 year old Sarhan, to six month of imprisonment for killing her 20 year old sister when one of the family members raped her. When required to plead for her offence, he stated that her actions were necessary to protect the whole family from the shame, and made him feel like areal man. He said that the sanctions from society and the family could not stop him from killing his sister whom he loved (Loucks, Holt, & Adler, 2013).
Faqir Mohammed, an inhabitant of Manchester justified similar grounds when she found the daughter’s secret boyfriend in their bedroom. When required by the police to answer for the charges, Mohammed felt that his actions though prohibited by religion were right since it was not to be tolerated for a man to share the same bedroom with an unmarried woman. According to the victim, killing the daughter was the best thing to have done since he stood honored in the public (Loucks, Holt, & Adler, 2013).
The cases involving Mohammed and Jordanian man calls for examining the shifting position on the archaic laws which continue to govern the traditional society and even modern society by placing a higher tag on collective behavior as opposed to individual action. The danger in societal sanctions will continue to make honor killing thrive and contribute to cases of homicides increasing when perpetrators lack proper sense of moral judgment (Loucks, Holt, & Adler, 2013).
Honor killings have no place in the modern society and should not be tolerated in their entirety. There is need to direct the public to seek conventional justice in the courts of law, which allow for witnesses to be present, and offers valid judgment to disputes which is free from impartiality. Honor killing, is founded after redistributive justice, which is partial and offers unfair judgment for victim hence should be outlawed.
Baumeister, R.F. & Bushman, B. (2013). Social Psychology and Human Nature, Brief. California: Cengage Learning.
Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly (2004). Official report of debates: 2003 ordinary session (second part), 31 March- 4 April 2004.Council of Europe Publishing.
Loucks, N.S., Holt, S. & Adler, J.R. (2013). Why We Kill: Understanding Violence Across Cultures and Disciplines. London: Middlesex University Press.
Smail, Z. S. (2013).Gender and Violence in Islamic Societies: Patriarchy, Islamism and Politics in the Middle East and North America. New York: Tauris & Company Ltd.