Ending Honor Crime
Image source: Flickr.
Most of you have probably never heard of Zahida Parveen. This is simply due to the fact that the world hides one of the worse atrocities women face, honor crime. Parveen, a Pakistani woman, whose husband believed she was having an affair dragged her out of bed on December 20, 1998 and committed the worse: he mutilated her face and body, leaving her screaming in pain in her own bloodshed like a dead dog. Parveen is one of the many victims of honor crime but fortunately one of the few survivors. Most honor crime cases go unreported, which leaves the rest of the world in the dark about these atrocities. You may wonder how such cruelty exists but that is the beginning of many untold stories. Honor crime is the killing of a family member due to the belief that someone has dishonored the name of the family and deserves to die. Women are the primary victims of honor crime, as in certain societies they are perceived by the males' as being immature and imbecilic. Despite the fact that honor crime has been practiced for thousands of years, sanctions that are in place today to prevent it are rarely enforced. Thus, laws have failed to discourage the continuance of honor crime in Iran and Pakistan, in particular; however, recent international campaigns have been formed to bring awareness to the subject and are achieving some success, even so its extinction remains an ongoing battle.
The frequent occurrence of honor crime continues in certain countries where the practice of it lies upon ancient cultural beliefs. Honor crime should not be misinterpreted as an Islamic belief; on the contrary the continuation of it arises from the peoples' culture. Honor crimes frequently take place in small villages where the villagers have hold on ancient cultural beliefs. The root of their culture stands upon girls being forced into marriage by the age of sixteen, in some rare cases by the age of nine or as soon as they become a women. Additionally, girls attend schools only at a young age. As they grow older, girls remain at home to help their mother with house chores and learn how to manage the household, which is considered a preparation for their future marital life. In such societies, a woman role is defined to the boundary of the house, and she must follow her husband's demand; she cannot leave the house without his permission. Societies who follow such culture, consider the practice of honor crime acceptable. The complot of the crime can involves sisters, brothers, father, mother-in-law or even cousins, all of who believe the victim dishonored the family name and deserve to die. The dishonoring of the family name associates to a woman's action; for example, rumors are spread around the neighborhood that she is having an affaire, or a girl is seen sneaking around with a boy at the age of thirteen or fourteen. Fanatics will state that such actions has brought dishonor to the family and in order to restore the family's dignity among the society the concerned woman should be killed by one of her relatives.
Most countries have established severe sanctions against the practice of honor crime; however, certain countries where its practice still exists have formed only limited sanctions. The Persian land, Iran, follows Sharia law based on Islamic ruling. Iran laws justify the reasoning of honor crime, in Article 220 of the Iranian Civil Code, "if father or father's father killes his child or grand child, he will not be punished for murder (Iran Human Right, 2009)." Thus, The Republic of Iran approves the concept of honor crime and believes that the removal of such a law will not follow their beliefs. Moreover, in Pakistan, most killers of honor crime are not prosecuted, and infrequently will they be taken to court, but even then their sentence would only be two to three years maximum. Pakistan has a high level of honor crime and five thousand women are killed in the name of honor crime every year. I would like to share a story that happened in Pakistan and that has brought the attention of the international community:
Samia, 28, arrived at the Lahore law offices of Hina Jilani and Asma Jahangir, who are sisters, on April 6. She had engaged Jilani a few days earlier, because she wanted a divorce from her violent husband. Samia settled on a chair across the desk from the lawyer. Sultana, Samia's mother, entered five minutes later with a male companion. Samia half-rose in greeting. The man, Habib-ur-Rhemna, grabbed Samia and put a pistol to her head. The first bullet entered near Samia's eye and she fell. "There was no scream. There was dead silence. I don't even think she knew what was happening," Jilani said. The killer stood over Samia's body, and fired again. Jilani reached for the alarm button as the gunman and Sultana left. "She never even bothered to look whether the girl was dead."(Gendercide, n.d)
Once the story was revealed, the Pakistani upper class ruled for the prosecution of the two lawyers, but the police did not condemned them. Women who live in such societies end up living in fear and men feeling powerful than ever. On the other hand, countries like Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, which embrace similar cultural principles have all established strong sanctioned against honor crime.
Moreover, Canada has been the victim of honor crimes. The Parvers, an immigrate family who established itself in Mississauga, Ontario, but unable to adapt to the western lifestyle. Their daughter, Aqsa Parvez, has had many conflicts with her father as she refused to wear the Hijab (Islamic veil) and wished to wear western clothes. At the start, her father agreed to let her wear what she desired since Aqsa spoke to her high school counselor and said that she believed her father was going to kill her. Eventually, that did not stop her father from committing the worse. On December 10, 2007, Aqsa's brother, Waqas Parvez, killed his sister. The father and son, both decided that it would be better killing Aqsa than to have her disobey their words and dishonor the family. Nevertheless, Muhammad and Waqas were both sentenced to life in prison, but the life of Aqsa will not be brought back (CBC News: Aqsa Parvez's father, brother get life sentence, 2010). The Muslim community responded through online comment to the published article and wrote that justice has finally been made.
As the deep continuance of honor crime in countries is in a rise, certain communities have formed campaigns to bring international awareness. The Kurdish Women Action Against Honour Killing (KWAH), established in London by Kurdish, non-Kurdish and lawyers their primary goal is to alert the international society and help victim in distress. The United Nation has worked against the elimination of honor crime, and non-governmental organization in Pakistan have worked on the modification of the Islam law, which does not prevent nor condemn the predator of honor crime. Despite the help of international campaign, honor crime is still practiced as the blockade of it can only take place by the people themselves. Education may be the key for a change in the near future, because countries like Pakistan and Iran forbid their women to complete their studies, as they will be exposed to men and to unfaithful matters, which leaves them uneducated and submissive. Parents, where some are illiterate, believe a woman is only good for breeding and cooking. However, if women receive education and men continue fighting in organization for the establishment of severe sanctions against honor crime then we can hope for a rightful future. The new generation is becoming more educated and their values are changing and all is hoping for a change.
In general, people do not approve honor crime nor believe that the practice of it should continue. However, naysayers believe that a halt to the subject is somehow impossible. Even though we believe that we must bring an end to this sanctified murder, governments have decided to let those regions handle their own problems.
I would want you to imagine for a second being in the place of one those victims, being forced into marriage at a premature age, not being able to maintain the life you have now, but on the other hand being a prisoner in someone's house that you do not even love and who constantly rapes you. Do you think that a two years sentence would bring justice to your misery? Victims of honor crime are dead, some because of false rumors, others because they wanted to be free and wear clothes that seemed inappropriate to their families, others wanted to meet a boy, but they all ended dead. How could a mother or a father kill his own daughter, how could a brother kill his own sister? Such cruelty persists in certain regions of the world we live in. Women who have rebelled against their society hoping for a better future, a future that we are lucky to have, have ended dead. Others were lucky enough to survive such atrocity but will forever hold the scars of their horrifying past.
Iran Human Right, A father murdered his 16 years old daughter because of suspicion. (2009). Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://iranhr.net/spip.php?article970
Gendercide: Case Study:"Honour" Killings and Blood Feuds. (n.d.). Genderside Watch. Retrieved June 1,2011, from http://www.gendercide.org/case_honour.html
CBC News: Aqsa Parvez's father, brother get life sentence. (n.d.). CBC News. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2010/06/16/parvez-sentence.html