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Honor Killings vs. Domestic Violence

Updated on April 30, 2013
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by Amber Maccione

In a lot of cultures that are not "Westernized", the family unit's rights are held in higher esteem than that of an individual's human rights. Such cultures, especially that in the world of Muslims, honor stems from following family values and traditions and honor is broken when an indivdual strays from those set values and traditions. Such values include how one dresses, who one marries, how it is decided whom you will marry, whether you can divorce, and certain technologies and materialism that is allowed and accepted. Honor killings happen when one (usually a girl or young female adult) decide to become "Westernized" or break from her families values. With the rise of domestic violence within America, these honor killings have been classified. But is it really fair to list something that stems from someone's culture as a crime just because your culture doesn't embrace it?

What does it mean to be "Westernized"?

Westernized is a verb which refers to someone or something being influenced by the cultural, economic, or political aspects within European and North American systems. Both of these systems encourage independance and value the individual's rights over the family unit's rights. Children are encouraged to grow up and become something separate from their families. They are encouraged to embrace individualism and self-reliance. Someone is seen as successful when they are able to do so.

What are honor killings?

Honor killings happen when someone within the family unit does something that dishonors the values and traditions of that family. The family sees fit that the person must be put to death in order for honor to be restored back to the family. Most of the time honor killings are conducted by the father of the family, even though the whole family is behind it supporting it. Honor killings are thoroughly planned acts of violence usually toward the daughter of the family (a girl or young adult woman). Reasons for: being too Westernized, divorce, marrying someone the family doesn't support, refusal to marry betrothed, not wearing cultural clothing such as a hijab, etc. Ways in which one is killed: stoning, beatings, stabbed, shot, raped, stranggled, burned alive, kidknapped, throat slashed, tortured, smothered, etc.

Honor Killings vs. Domestic Violence

Honor Killings
Domestic Violence
Committed mainly by Muslims against Muslim girls/young adult women
Committed by men of any faith against adult women.
Committed mainly by fathers against their daughters (under 30), although wives and daughters (over 30) can also be victims though rare
Committed by a spouse or intimate partner against the other spouse of intimate partner (Perpetrator can be either male or female)
Planned Carefully; Victims usually warned by death threats
Murder is usually unplanned.
The whole family is usually involved (mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins) and they will search for victim if she flees
Usually carried out by one person.
The reason is because the victim has dishonored the family in some way and honor needs to be restored. The Killer has no remorse. He sees himself as a victim because of girl's defying actions.
No claim to honor. Usually stems from anger and control issues. Sometimes remorse is seen.
Carried out through barbaric ferocity
,The victim is usually beaten, shot, or stabbed.
Extended family and commuinty valorize honor killings. It is seen as normative and not condemned.
Perpetrator is seen as a criminal, not a hero.

What Do You Think?

Should Honor Killings be classified under domestic violence or handled completely different?

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Should honor killings be handled as a domestic violence case?

Honor killings are a cultural thing that stems from a value system that places the family above the individual. You are raised to do what is right by the family, clan, or tribe – individual rights as in the western European and American cultures are not held above the family. They should not be classified as domestic violence because of the fact that these individuals are acting in a way to bring honor back to their families; it is not done because of anger or a violent disposition.

In America, religious groups that support honor killings should be informed that our culture does not accept these things and that such things are considered murder and punishable by the full extent of the law. Our criminal justice system or culture should not bash honor killings, but rather explain that although we understand that this type of thing is part of their culture, they need to abide by the rules of our culture while living within our borders. If an honor killing is brought to law enforcement’s attention, it should be handled as an honor killing/homicide. It should not be handled as domestic violence since domestic violence is not a cultural thing like honor killings are.

Cultural or Religious Similarities to Honor Killings

In the Torah, God had instructed the Jews to stone disobedient children.

  • Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (ESV) - “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

The Amish shun those that break laws and customs.

Christians in churches administering church discipline.

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      tjaye 3 years ago

      Yes that is right, but when Jesus came he abolished the law and gave new laws using the principals of the old laws. God is a loving God an wishes no one to die! What would be the reason for Jesus coming if the was the case? In the book of Matt he states he is the new law. He made a new covenant, this is why we have the Bible today they did not have it back then. Hebrews 16:7-13

    • ambercita04 profile image
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      Amber 3 years ago from Winter Park

      In the Old Testament/Torah, God commanded His people to do "honor killings" although it wasn't labeled that. If God instructed it, how can we say that those who do it are wrong? We cannot. What we can do is inform them that our culture in America do not permit it. Therefore, if they choose to do it here in our country, they will be prosecuted. I don't think anyone should be shunned for their belief. I do feel that countries should inform those that come in of what we accept and don't accept and make sure they know that if our beliefs and cultures and laws are broken, there will be consequences.

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 3 years ago from Florida

      ambercita04...Maybe " shunned " was incorrect choice of wordage...I meant perhaps the person who did wrong in the eyes of the family could just part ways...and move on...And these people feel their " God " accepts and condons these beliefs and acrions to one own flesh and blood...kind of barbaric , and we wonder why after thousands of years they are still at war with each other ??? ...just a thought..

      Very thought provoking subject you chose to write about...

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I just have one thought. I sure as hell thank God I am an American. Thanks for an interesting read!

    • MasculistFeminist profile image

      Ryan 4 years ago from Australia

      This was a very interesting article. I think it draws much needed attention to the fact that it is important that we properly understand the underlying dynamics of human rights issues and avoid making culturally biased assumptions about them.

      The ethical issue for me is whether or not we have the right to intervene in the cultural practices of other countries when we believe a practice like honor killings is immoral. That is a really tricky one. I honestly don't have an answer. I believe honor killings against any gender or person is wrong. Part of me would want to intervene and have this practice stopped. Then there is the question about what gives me the right to tell other people what is right and wrong.

      Unless it is in self defence, I would think that killing another human being is wrong, regardless of the circumstances. I would think this would be a universal principle. Clearly to my surprise there are other people in this world that don't see it that way. Do I have the right to intervene? Honestly I don't know. However if I had to witness that in my daily life, I couldn't stand idly by and say nothing or support it.

      You are spot on about the slippery slope of hate crimes. I think the only way to resolve cultural impasses like this, is to have an intelligent reasoned discussion between people about what makes killing someone justified if they dishonor the family. Perhaps in the process of doing that a better alternative can be found and agreed upon.

      I really don't know. It is very tricky dealing with cultural conflict. However you are absolutely right about a countries laws being obeyed.

    • ambercita04 profile image
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      Amber 4 years ago from Winter Park

      Quote from my article: Our criminal justice system or culture should not bash honor killings, but rather explain that although we understand that this type of thing is part of their culture, they need to abide by the rules of our culture while living within our borders. If an honor killing is brought to law enforcement’s attention, it should be handled as an honor killing/homicide.

      I feel that no one should ever be shunned for their culture or belief system. I think thre are ways to go about things to educate people, but shunning is wrong. I think when we step into shunning others for how they believe and what their culture has taught them that we start walking into the danger zone of hate crimes.

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 4 years ago from Florida

      ambercita04...Very interesting and though provoking article. My take on this subject is " killing indrome.s killing"... regardless...when crimes such as these are committed in America, the law of the land takes precedent and these women should be protected...when done in their own country their law designates...I feel they can be shunned if that is there religion... but death ? that's religion ? another man playing " god " syndrome...just my thoughts....