Everyone of us must be familiar with the term ‘honor killing’, which is generally referred to as ‘an act of murder of a woman in the name of honor by a man’. Honor is said to have threatened when a woman gets engaged in morally wrong actions. The reality, however, is much different and a lot broader. It is even beyond our imagination.
Not always do only men engage in killings in the name of honor, female members of the family are also often involved in set-up and planning of the killing. In many cases, the Jirga’s give orders to men for killing in the name of honor. The concept of engagement in morally wrong actions is perceived as a form of disgrace to the family. The family can be disgraced in many forms; some can be in actual forms, while some can be alleged. These forms include rape, seen with an unknown man, flirting, adultery, marrying someone of her own choice, showing interest in marrying someone of her own choice or someone from outside the tribe, and obtaining a divorce.
Unfortunately, honor killing is considered a religious practice, though it is a cultural practice and not a religious practice, because it is practiced in other cultures as well. However, in other cultures, it is known with other names, like in India; it is called bride burning or dowry deaths. Therefore, it should be noted that honor killing is not a religious practice but a cultural one.
Honor killings are not only practiced by individuals, but are also practiced as a result of decisions taken by feudal lords in Jirga’s. The fact that we can’t ignore is that majority of the victims are women, while men who are associated with women rarely get the same punishment. In the cases of honor, women always have to compensate with their life, while men with money or something else, as per the decision of the feudal lord in Jirga. In Jirga’s, women are never even given the chance to defend themselves.
Amnesty International states:
“The mere perception that a woman has contravened the code of sexual behavior damages honor. The regime of honor is unforgiving: women on whom suspicion has fallen are not given an opportunity to defend themselves, and family members have no socially acceptable alternative but to remove the stain on their honor by attacking the woman”.
The structure and status of the family are supreme to the state of the community and society. There is blind faith that “family status is directly linked to family honor, and family honor is directly linked to the female’s perceived moral integrity”.
Now, let us take a look at some scenarios in which females were killed in the name of honor:
- There was a girl who was raped at the age of 9 years. She was killed on the second day of her marriage, at the age of 14, because she was accused by her husband of not being a virgin.
- A case was reported by the press of a 40-year-old laborer who was arrested after confessing to killing of his 25-year-old step-daughter because he thought she had committed adultery. He then slit the throats of his three daughters, aged 8, 7 and 4, as a supposed preventative measure so they wouldn’t make the same mistake their sister made when they grew up. And if all that isn’t horrible enough, he also made his wife watch the killings. “I thought the younger girls would do what their eldest sister had done, so they should be eliminated,” he told the reporters.
- A lender came to get his money back from the borrower and the borrower killed his wife and then the lender in the name of honor, so that he may not pay back the money. He was again compensated by the lender’s family because he was accused of having an affair with the culprit’s wife.
- A woman was raped by 5 people. She lodged a FIR against them. After 3 days, she was killed by her own son-in-law in the name of honor. The culprit told the police that he couldn’t tolerate the taunts of people, that is why he killed his mother-in-law.
- A man had a dream that his wife was with someone alien to their family. He woke up and immediately killed his wife. He escaped from the scene and was arrested later on.
- There are many cases in which females are killed in the name of honor, if they don’t bleed in the first night of their marriage. Their bleeding is considered as a proof of their virginity. This is extreme ignorance as medical science has rejected the concept of female bleeding is a sign of her being a virgin.
- 5 girls ran away from their homes to marry the men of their choice. They were chased by their family members and were caught before they could meet their lovers. They were killed immediately.
There is a tribal norm in many tribes that in the first night of marriage, a new white sheet is spread over the bed of the newly married couple and an axe or a gun is kept behind. If the girl bleeds, then it is fine, but if she doesn’t then she needs to be killed in the name of honor because a female’s virginal status is considered as the property and responsibility of the man. Isn’t it something illogical? In their daily lives, if someone invades their property, they will kill him and will not destroy their property, but in this case, why do they destroy their own property and don’t even try to reach the invader? Ask them, if you ever get the chance to meet them.
Every year, thousands of females are killed in the name of honor, but most of the culprits are at large, men. Many such cases are not even reported because their family shows their murder as a case of suicide or natural death. Even if a case is proven to be a murder case, nothing happens to the culprits because they are considered to have done a manly job and are considered as real heroes of their tribe. Ask the police, why do the culprits in most cases rudely respond that it is a case of family honor and they have resolved the case among themselves? Hence, the cries of innocent victims remain unheard.
Though it is very difficult to accept the harsh reality that such cases can happen in the 21st century, yet the fact that they do happen cannot be denied. It is high time we take steps to eliminate this system, or it will be written in the history that females were never considered human beings in this society.