The other day I was reading a book by an academic feminist who argued, among other things, that the idea that there is a universal code of morality (i.e. there are just things that are plain wrong) is a white imperialist idea. Maybe, but I still have to say that honor killings are wrong and the relativists be damned.
What’s an honor killing? An honor killing is where a man kills a female relative if he suspects she’s committed a sexual transgression, and in some cultures such violence is not only ignored but actually sanctioned by the legal code.
In Jordan, for example, two women were recently murdered in honor killings. In one case a father killed his adult daughter after she was released from jail after serving time for a sexual relationship her step brother. In the second case, a woman accused of having extramarital sex was murdered by her brothers. Of course both men and women kill each other in the United States and other parts of the world over sexual infidelity, but here’s the kicker — in Jordan the penal code specifically exempts a man from punishment if he kills a female relative to atone for her sexual transgressions.
According to the BBC (Jordanian women killed ‘for honour’), in Jordan about 25 women a year are murdered this way, and their murderers are protected by law from prosecution. That’s a rather large figure in a country of less than 5 million people.
A small group of reformers tried to get the Jordanian parliament to overturn the law protecting honor killings but failed. A protest against the law drew only a few thousand people.
And Jordan isn’t alone in having a problem with honor killings. A report released by Amnesty International last September claimed that hundreds of honor killings take place in Pakistan every year. Although honor killing is murder under Pakistan’s penal code, juries tend to acquit men who kill their female relatives for reasons of honor and judges tend to give light sentences for those men who say they killed to preserve their family’s honor.
Maybe it’s just the Western imperialist in me, but honor killing is downright barbaric and should be outlawed everywhere in the world.