While ‘honor killings‘ is the most commonly discussed aspect of this phenomenon, it is actually only one of a link of control exercised over women’s lives. In ‘honor’ cultures women and men are subject to the wishes of the elders in their family and in the community who presume to act in the greater good of the culture as a whole. Children or adults who step outside of the cultural boundaries or insist on their own autonomy are considered to selfish and disruptive and to violate the honor of the family and therefore the community.
Women are particularly targeted and constantly subjected to surveillance to prevent them from transgressing the honor code of the family and thereby bringing into disrepute. Women brought up in honor cultures have little or no privacy at home, and few opportunities for socializing outside their immediate kinship network. The family feels honor bound to restrict a woman’s movements to prevent them from developing relationships outside the community group. Such a control ethnic controls a woman’s freedom of association and movement to such an extent that they are denied opportunities to socialize in a wider world, freedom to choose who they have relationships with, and choosing to seek help when violence or coercion occurs. Responses to a perceived slight on the family honor vary according to family preference and the public nature of the behavior that is seen as “dishonoring”.
Motives For Honor-Based Violence
Some of the most common motives for committing honor-based violence are:
– Loss of virginity in unmarried women;
– Extramarital affairs;
– Insulting an elder family member;
– Rebellion against traditional dress, occupation or forms of behavior;
– Honor conflicts such as inheritance disputes
– Refusal to take part in honor-based violence against others.
Forms of Honor-Based Violence
Young girls and women are the most common victims of honour-based violence which can take many different forms, however, boys and men are often victims too. Girls or women who have displayed dishonoring behavior are often disowned by the family, abused, or forced to have an abortion. Examples of honor-based violence include:
– Physical abuse such as beating and kicking;
– Abandonment (leaving a person behind in their country of origin or forcing them to go back there;
– Forced suicide
– Psychological pressure such as threats, humiliation and strict monitoring of movement and behavior;
– Honor killing (murdering a person);
– Forced abortion or hymen ‘repair’;
– Abduction and imprisonment.
Sometimes when a woman falls pregnant outside of marriage and this is unknown outside the immediate family circle, the family may consider an abortion and a hymen repair a better solution than committing honor-based violence which is a crime. However, if her condition becomes common knowledge, the family may have to resort to more severe forms of punishment to quell the negative reactions from the community. Consent to such drastic medical procedures is either acquired under duress or not at all. When given the choice between hymenoplasty and an unwanted abortion, and death at the hands of a family member, it is impossible not to consent. Such methods violate a woman’s rights over her own body.
In countries where honor-killings are vigorously prosecuted, a strategy is deployed to force a woman to kill herself in order for the perpetrator to be found technically innocent of murder. This is particularly common in certain regions of Turkey. It is never clear whether forced suicide was due to direct coercion, whether a woman is honor-bound to kill herself in order to spare a family member from going to jail, whether an honor-killing has been disguised as suicide, or whether a woman has truly committed suicide to escape the unbearable violence, restrictions, disfavour and abuse by her life family. No matter what the issue is, it’s a criminal act.