Honour Killings

Sonam Dhesi, Writer

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In Lahore, Pakistan on May 27, 2014 Farzana Parveen, who was three months pregnant, was stoned and beaten to death in front of a courthouse by her own family. This was considered an ‘honour killing’. Farzana married the man of her choice, Mohammad Iqbal, but this was against her family’s wishes of having an arranged marriage. Parveen’s family was deeply ashamed of her love marriage so her father accused her husband of abducting his daughter. Parveen and Iqbal were on their way to the court with their lawyer to prove that her father’s accusations were false when she was murdered. Shortly after Parveen’s father was arrested and police continued to investigate and search for those who were involved. Her father confessed to murdering his own daughter arguing it was against his family’s wishes and that it is against the norm amongst Muslims to have a love marriage.

 

This recent example stands out in particular because it was committed in public, especially in front of a courthouse. Parveen was on her way to seek justice and it failed. It shows how justice failed to protect women.

 

‘Honour killings’ are not just committed by Muslims but also by the communities of Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus. ‘Honour killing’ is when a family member’s behaviour is believed to bring shame onto their family, so as a punishment they murder their own child, who is usually a female. These killings usually happen to rape victims, daughters that had premarital sex or a love marriage, and anything else that is seen to be shameful. Honour is very important to these communities, there is a saying ‘blood is thicker than water,’ meaning family is more important than anything else. Another variation of this saying is ‘honour is thicker than blood’ which means to keep the family’s honour it is a better option to murder someone instead. It is so important especially in the east where the numbers of these killings are close to a thousand. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported 869 ‘honour killings’ for 2013. These numbers remain unreliable because not all cases are reported. The killers believe that they can get away with the ‘honour killings’ because of the poor justice system in developing countries and because it is unaffordable for some.

 

Even though the majority of these cases happen in the east, they do occur in first world countries. The numbers have escalated in Canada since 2002 with thirteen more cases. These numbers have escalated due to the belief of children integrating into a more modern society from their parents strict upraising. There is also undergoing research to see if mental health issues are behind these killings. In Canada, 16 year-old Aqsa Parvez was murdered by her father and brother because Parvez wanted to wear western clothes and to have a part-time job, just like her friends. In another case a mother stabbed her 19 year-old daughter because she stayed out all night.

 

The majority of people do not believe in committing ‘honour killings’, including followers of the religions it frequently occurs in. They argue that killing women for the sake of honour is dishonourable. In the Qur’an there is nothing written on ‘honour killings’ even though murderers, especially in Canada, are using it for defence. By using it as defence they are hoping that the cultural sensitivity in Canada will help for a tolerant sentence in their favour.

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