Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The honour police

I'm immensely grateful I'm not part of a community that expects me to beat or mutilate any woman who has brought "shame" on my family by damaging our "honour".

I don't understand how any man who carries out such arbitrary punishments can live with himself. Presumably because he does it in the name of morality and decency. As defined by him and his puritanical brothers, of course.

Umpteen "offences" will put a woman in their sights. An unsuitable boyfriend. Objecting to an arranged marriage. Lesbianism. Revealing clothing. Make-up. A request for a divorce. Exposing domestic abuse. If the men say it's wrong, it's wrong. No arguments. No protests. Just do what you're told, woman.

Around 3000 "honour" attacks are recorded by police every year in the UK. And that's just the ones they get to know about. Many others go unreported because the victims are too terrified to say anything.

It might be obvious to us that what really brings shame on a family is bigoted attacks on its female members and attempts to stop them leading independent and fulfilling lives. But the "honour" vigilantes have a peculiar code of conduct all of their own.

At the end of the day, I guess it's only women standing together and demanding their freedom who can stop this reign of terror and get their lives back. And that takes an awful lot of bravery.

Pic: Banaz Mahmod, 20, from Mitcham, South London, was strangled on the orders of her father and uncle because she left her violent husband for a new boyfriend they deemed "unsuitable".


  1. I would back a campaign that tries to get the press and everyone else from calling this vile behaviour "Honour" killing. Wonder what it ought to be called. I'm not very good at thinking of these things but I do know that "dishonour" is no better than "honour" because both words are irrelevant to the scum who murder someone they perceive as more helpless than them, who won't obey. Female slavery killing? Jackal killing?

  2. Honour.........more like "shame " killings as it is that age old concept of "shame" which is the main factor here...ok coupled with the fact that women are objects that can be owned and bullied.

    oh Nick... your recent blogs have been rather down have they not?
    abuse? murder? dishonesty?

    I challenge you to a Mary Poppins blog entry next!

  3. It's not just men: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-01-30/afghans-jailed-over-canadian-honour-killings/3799440/?site=sydney
    The mother of three girls says she's not a murderer, she's a mother. Bullshit.

  4. Jenny - Yes, even with "honour" in quotes, it's still a warped description of what's actually happening. But I can't think of a better term either.

    John - I think "shame" killings also gives a wrong impression. As you say, it's the desire to own and bully women.

    A Mary Poppins blog entry? Ha, I might even take you up on that!

  5. Baino - True, women can be involved as well. I suspect mainly because of pressure from men, but it's hard to tell.

  6. There is no honour in any of it. I would call it horrific killings, no matter whoever carries them out.

  7. Grannymar - You're right, in reality it's simple murder and brutality, and euphemisms about "preserving honour" are fatuous nonsense.

  8. Myra - Very sad. But more to the point, sickening and grotesque. Such a twisted use of the word honour.

  9. It is a bigger problem in South Asia and the incidents that occur in the UK must be from the diaspora from this part of the world.


  10. Ramana - Yes, I know how big the problem is in South Asia and the Middle East. As you say, it's probably the UK diaspora that's spreading the practice here.

  11. I just saw that a father and his sons were convicted of an honor killing of their daughter/sister in Canada this week. There's not a lot to say about it, except that it's just sick what people will do in the name of religion.

  12. Bijoux - It's sick indeed. And religion has a lot to answer for when it comes to the barbaric treatment of others.

  13. I'd like to see us change the language to reflect what these crimes are. I agree with Jenny that "Honor" gives some credibility. They are brutal attacks based on a misogynistic system, I have a similar problem with the use of the term "female circumcision" to describe genital mutilation. I sometimes wonder if women will ever have any safety in this world.

  14. I don't think I know of any religion that treats women equally.

  15. Agent - I agree about the term female circumcision. It makes it sound like a variation on the minor snipping of male circumcision. Though even that is supposed to greatly reduce sexual sensitivity.

    www - To my knowledge, there isn't one. Even my favoured philosophy/religion of Buddhism has a poor record on female equality.

  16. WWW and Nick, Witchcraft.


  17. I truly don't understand these so-called honor killings. Isn't murder also forbidden in their religious tradition? I'd rather the equivalent of the old-school idea of being "ruined" and having to go live in exile with some spinster aunt. Sigh, why not do that instead?

  18. Ramana - You might be right there. I know next to nothing about witchcraft so I couldn't really say. I suppose there's also the Quakers, if they qualify as a religion.

    Liz - A good idea. Or at least a much better and less brutal idea than physical violence and murder. But so many things are seen as unacceptable, wouldn't the spinster aunts run out pretty quickly?

  19. Reminds of the debate round the term joyriding.

    A better term - murder - none of the other elaborations seem to fit.

    You might like to have a look at this blog by a woman living in Jordan, who's very good on this horrible phenomenon. It's not all horror - some sunny times too.
    She's at http://kinziblogs.wordpress.com/


  20. Blackwater - Indeed, "joyriding" is anything but for the unfortunate victims. And for "honour attacks" read brutal, unprovoked acts of violence and murder.