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Felony murder
Consensual homicide
Negligent homicide
Vehicular homicide
Honour killing
Ritual murder
Proxy murder
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Spree killer
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Serial killer
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In English law
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Justifiable homicide
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Other types of homicide

An honor killing, or honour killing[1] is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or community. Honor killings are directed mostly against women and girls.

The perceived dishonor is normally the result of one of the following behaviors, or the suspicion of such behaviors: dressing in a manner unacceptable to the family or community, wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice, especially if to a member of a social group deemed inappropriate, engaging in heterosexual acts outside marriage and engaging in homosexual acts.

Many women's groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia suspect that more than 20,000 women are honor killed each year.[2]


Human Rights Watch defines "honor killings" as follows:

Honor killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that "dishonors" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.[3]

Men can also be the victims of honor killings by members of the family of a woman with whom they are perceived to have an inappropriate relationship.[4] The loose term "honor killing" applies to killing of both men and women in cultures that practice it.[5]

Some women who bridge social divides, publicly engage other communities, or adopt some of the customs or the religion of an outside group may be attacked. In countries that receive immigration, some otherwise low-status immigrant men and boys have asserted their dominant patriarchal status by inflicting honor killings on women family members who have participated in public life, for example, in feminist and integration politics.[6]


Further information: Namus

Sharif Kanaana, professor of anthropology at Birzeit University, says that honor killing is:

A complicated issue that cuts deep into the history of Arab society. .. What the men of the family, clan, or tribe seek control of in a patrilineal society is reproductive power. Women for the tribe were considered a factory for making men. The honour killing is not a means to control sexual power or behavior. What's behind it is the issue of fertility, or reproductive power.[7]

An Amnesty International statement adds:

The regime of honour 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 honour by attacking the woman.[8]

Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, an anthropology professor at Rhode Island College, explains how honor killings can be viewed in cultural relativist terms. She writes that the act, or even alleged act, of any female sexual misconduct, upsets moral order for the culture of interest and bloodshed is the only way to remove any shame brought about by the actions and restore social equilibrium.[9]

Changing cultural and economic status of women has also been used to explain the occurrences of honor killings. Women in largely patriarchal cultures who have gained economic independence from their families go against their male-dominated culture. Some researchers argue that the shift towards greater responsibility for women and less for their fathers may cause their male family members to act in oppressive and sometimes violent manners in order to regain authority.[10]

This change of culture can also be seen to have an effect in Western cultures such as Britain where honor killings often arise from women seeking greater independence and adopting seemingly Western values. For women who trace their ancestry back to the Middle East or South Asia, wearing clothes that are considered Western, having a boyfriend, or refusing to accept an arranged marriage are all offenses that can and have led to an honor killing.[11]

Cultural implications can often be seen in public and private views of honor killings. In some cultures, honor killings are considered less serious than other murders simply because they arise from long-standing cultural traditions and are thus deemed appropriate or justifiable.[9] Additionally, according to a poll done by the BBC’s Asian network, 1 in 10 of the 500 Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims surveyed said they would condone any murder of someone who threatened their family’s honor. The poll demonstrated how the notion of honor killings and views of whether they are acceptable and justifiable crosses religion and is more contingent on the family’s social culture.[12]

The lawyer and human rights activist Hina Jilani says, "The right to life of women in Pakistan is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions."[13]

Nighat Taufeeq of the women's resource center Shirkatgah (Lahore, Pakistan) says: "It is an unholy alliance that works against women: the killers take pride in what they have done, the tribal leaders condone the act and protect the killers and the police connive the cover-up."[14]

A July 2008 Turkish study by a team from Dicle University on honor killings in the Southeastern Anatolia Region, the predominantly Kurdish area of Turkey, has so far shown that little if any social stigma is attached to honor killing. It also comments that the practice is not related to a feudal societal structure, "there are also perpetrators who are well-educated university graduates. Of all those surveyed, 60 percent are either high school or university graduates or at the very least, literate."[15]

Fareena Alam, editor of a Muslim magazine, writes that honor killings which arise in Western cultures such as Britain are a tactic for immigration families to cope with the alienating consequences of urbanization. Alam argues that immigrants remain close to the home culture and their relatives because it provides a safety net. She writes that,

“In villages "back home", a man's sphere of control was broader, with a large support system. In our cities full of strangers, there is virtually no control over who one's family members sit, talk or work with.”

Alam argues that it is thus the attempt to regain control and the feelings of alienation that ultimately leads to an honor killing.[16]

Relation to homosexuality

There is some evidence that homosexuality can also be perceived as grounds for honor killing by relatives. In one case, a gay Jordanian man was shot and wounded by his brother.[17] In another case, a homosexual Turkish student, Ahmet Yildiz, was shot outside a cafe and later died in hospital. Sociologists have called this Turkey's first publicized gay honor killing.[18][19]

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees state that "claims made by LGBT persons often reveal exposure to physical and sexual violence, extended periods of detention, medical abuse, threat of execution and honour killing."[20]

In the country of Brazil, honor killings show up mostly within rural regions but also in the metropolis. Non-heterosexual children, especially boys or transgirls, can be killed if their sexuality is disclosed. The act of honor killings in Brazil has roots in Latin America's version of machismo. However, it is more common for homosexual individuals to suffer some psychological and physical abuse without deadly consequences, such as being driven from their homes or not being accepted, in varying degrees. The first time a non-heterosexual Brazilian suffers homophobia, biphobia or transphobia tends to be within the family among all social groups. Feminist groups explain this observance by the characterization of the dominant societal attitudes in Brazil as deeply sexist and homophobic, documenting the Brazilian culture as the reason for an abnormal number, when compared to more developed countries, of homosexual youth suffering bullying or committing suicide. and there is a number of homophobic extermination gangs even in regions where far-right and white supremacist groups being unimaginable. Brazil is already in second place of this kind of movement in Latin America after Argentina.[citation needed] Since this kind of violence which is usually motivated by extremist ideologies appears to have come with great strength and very quickly to the country despite its limitations within globalization and its unique features, homophobic extermination groups may have originated in a very homophobic culture native to Brazilian society.


According to University of Toronto professor of women's studies Shahrzad Mojab, followers of Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity have used their religions as a rationale to commit honour killings. She said that honor killings don't have "any definite connection with religion at all", and that honor killing had been practised before any major religion came into existence.[21] Template:Deadlink

Widney Brown, the advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, said that the practice "goes across cultures and across religions." Human rights advocates have compared "honor killing" to "crimes of passion" in Latin America (which are sometimes treated extremely leniently) and also to the killing of women for lack of dowry in India.[22]

Tahira Shaid Khan, a professor of women's issues at Aga Khan University, notes that there is nothing in the Qur'an that permits or sanctions honor killings.[22] The first and most basic right in the Qur'an that every Muslim is expected to follow is, in fact, the right to life.[23] As written in the Qur'an,

For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth. (5:32).[24]

Khan instead blames it on attitudes (across different classes, ethnic and religious groups) that view women as property with no rights of their own as the motivation for honor killings.[22] Khan also argues that this view results in violence against women and their being turned "into a commodity which can be exchanged, bought and sold."[25]

A survey by author, Ellen Sheeley revealed that 20% of Jordanites sampled, believe that Islam condones and even supports murder in the name of family honor.[26] Others note how religious meaning attached to terms such as virginity and bride-price help to reinforce social traditions and the control of a woman's body and their sexuality.[10]

According to a 2000 article, in Jordan the official religious authorities argued that, while adultery should be punished by the proper authorities, in some cases by stoning to death for both men and women, unauthorized honor killings can be traced to pre-Islamic tribal traditions and are not part of the religion. However, the Islamist party argued that honor killings are one part of the Islamic code.

The Qur'an verse An-Nisa, 34 has been interpreted as supporting wife-beating, (See Islam and domestic violence) and has been argued to reduce resistance to honor killings.[27]

Evolutionary psychology

Several different evolutionary psychology explanations have been proposed for honor killings. Honor killings, as well as the related concept of crime of passion due to adultery, have occurred and have to some degree been seen as justified in many different and separated cultures. Theories referring to the influence of the patriarchy in general may have difficulty explaining why men are more likely to kill women for reasons related to adultery rather than for reasons such as laziness or stupidity.[28] General patriarchal theories may also have difficulty explaining why societies have made particular legal exceptions for killings related to adultery. This may be explained by men, unlike women, have difficulty knowing with certainty that they are the biological parents of the children they spend considerable resources on in a long-term relationship. Sexual jealousy is argued to have evolved in order to reduce the risk of children not being biologically related and to be relatively stronger in men.[28] Men may use a variety of strategies, including physical violence, in order to prevent adultery. Actual killings have been argued to be maladaptive by-products of this since by killing the woman she cannot contribute further to the man's reproductive success.[29] However, it has also been argued that the such killings may be adaptive by being a warning to other wives, restoring lost social status, and preventing complications from possibly not genetically related children being born. These adaptive explanations have been criticized for less extreme violence possibly achieving the same thing or involving unlikely complex calculations. It has also been pointed out that to argue that society must morally accept and be structured according to what is claimed to be natural, such as by legal exceptions for honor killings or crimes of passion, is an example of the naturalistic fallacy.[30]

Honor killings in history

As noted by Christian Arab writer, Norma Khouri, honor killings originate from the belief that a woman’s chastity is the property of her families, a cultural norm that comes "from our ancient tribal days, from the Hammurabi and Assyrian tribes of 1200 B.C."[31]

Matthew A. Goldstein, J.D. (Arizona), has also noted that honor killings were encouraged in ancient Rome, where male family members who did not take actions against the female adulterers in their family were "actively persecuted".[32]

In ancient Rome, being raped was seen as dishonorable to the point of destroying a woman's life and reputation, and honor killing was supposed to be a "merciful" act.[citation needed] The origin of honor killings and the control of women is evidenced throughout history in the culture and tradition of many regions. The Roman law of pater familias gave complete control to the men of the family for both their children and wives. Under these laws, the lives of children and wives were at the sole discretion of the men in their family. Ancient Roman Law also established historical roots of honor killings through his law stating that women found guilty of adultery could be killed by their husband in whatever manner the husband desired. In Greece, the lives of women were too dictated by their husbands as women were considered socially below males.[33]

Among the Amerindian Aztecs and Incas adultery was punishable by death.[32]

Qays bin Asim, ancient leader of Banu Tamim is credited by some historians as the first to kill children on the basis of honor. It is recorded that he murdered all of his daughters to prevent them from ever causing him any kind of dishonor.[33]

See also


  1. See spelling differences.
  2. includeonly>Robert Fisk. "Robert Fisk: The crimewave that shames the world", The Independent, 7 September 2010. Retrieved on 8 September 2010.
  3. Violence Against Women and "Honor" Crimes. Human Rights Watch. URL accessed on 2001-04-06.
  4. Afghan couple stoned to death – Central & South Asia. Al Jazeera English (2010-08-16). Retrieved on 2011-10-01.
  5. Teen Lovers killed in India Honor Killing.
  6. svenska:

    Fadimes minnesfond. URL accessed on 2007-06-06.

  7. Suzanne Ruggi. Commodifying Honor in Female Sexuality: Honor Killings in Palestine. Middle East Research and Information Project. URL accessed on 2008-02-08.
  8. Broken bodies, shattered minds: Torture and ill-treatment of women. Amnesty International. URL accessed on 2001-03-06.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. Cultural Relativism and Universal Rights. URL accessed on 2011-12-02.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Hilal Onur Ince, Aysun Yarali and Dogancan Ozsel. Customary Killings in Turkey and Turkish Modernization. Middle Eastern Studies. URL accessed on 2011-12-02.
  11. Palash R. Ghosh. Honor Crimes in Britain Far More Prevalent than Formerly Thought. International Business Times. URL accessed on 2011-12-02.
  12. includeonly>"One in 10 'backs honor killings'", BBC News. Retrieved on 2001-12-08.
  13. PAKISTAN Honour killings of girls and women. Amnesty International. URL accessed on 2008-04-15.
  14. Culture of Discrimination: A Fact Sheet on "Honor" Killings. Retrieved on 2011-10-01.
  15. Murat Gezer. Honor killing perpetrators welcomed by society, study reveals. Today's Zaman. URL accessed on 2008-07-15.
  16. includeonly>Fareena Alam. "Take the Honor Out of Killing", The Guardian, 2004-07-06. Retrieved on 2011-12-02.
  17. includeonly>Marina Jimenez. "Gay Jordanian now 'gloriously free' in Canada", 'The Globe and Mail'. Retrieved on 2004-05-20.
  18. includeonly>Bilefsky, Dan. "Soul-Searching in Turkey After a Gay Man Is Killed", New York Times, November 26, 2009, pp. A16. Retrieved on 26 November 2009.
  19. includeonly>Nicholas Birch. "Was Ahmet Yildiz the victim of Turkey's first gay honor killing?", 'The Independent', 2008-07-19. Retrieved on 2008-09-27.
  20. UNHCR Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, II, B. para 14. (2008-11-21). Retrieved on 2011-10-01.
  21. includeonly>Appleby, Timothy. "'Honour killings' rooted in control and cleansing, Kingston trial hears", The Globe and Mail, 2011-12-05.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Hillary Mayell Thousands of Women Killed for Family “Honor”. National Geographic News. February 12, 2002
  23. Mohammad Yusuff. Honor Killings in the Name of Religion. Date accessed 10/11/11.
  24. Quran verse translation by Pickthal. URL accessed on 2012-02-23.
  25. International Domestic Violence Issues. Sanctuary For Families. URL accessed on 2011-12-05.
  26. Anver Emon on Honor Killings. Law is Cool. URL accessed on 2011-12-03.
  27. Yotam Feldner, Middle East Quarterly, December 2000, pp. 41-50,
  28. 28.0 28.1 Matthew A. Goldstein (September 2002 (vol. 21, no. 2: p. 32)). The biological roots of heat-of-passion crimes and honor killings. Politics and the Life Sciences. URL accessed on 2012-07-21.
  29. Matthew A. Goldstein (September 2002 (vol. 21, no. 2: p. 33)). The biological roots of heat-of-passion crimes and honor killings. Politics and the Life Sciences. URL accessed on 2012-07-21.
  30. Matthew A. Goldstein (September 2002 (vol. 21, no. 2: p. 35)). The biological roots of heat-of-passion crimes and honor killings. Politics and the Life Sciences. URL accessed on 2012-07-21.
  31. Anver Emon on Honor Killings. Law is Cool. URL accessed on 2011-10-12.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Matthew A. Goldstein (September 2002 (vol. 21, no. 2: p. 29)). The biological roots of heat-of-passion crimes and honor killings. Politics and the Life Sciences. URL accessed on 2012-07-21.
  33. 33.0 33.1 Umm Rashid. Honor Crimes and Muslims. URL accessed on 2011-11-28.

Further reading

External links

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