When Transgender Men And Women Are Killed Abroad

You already know why honor killings occur: a male member of the family usually believes that a daughter or wife is guilty of adultery or non-traditional relationship, and so he murders her in order to restore the family’s honor — often with the help of a son or brother. Women who are raped are also killed for this reason on a regular basis — because the family will target the victim. In 2019, two transgender women were targeted in Pakistan.

The bodies showed signs of torture. They were beaten to death. Sahiwal District Senior Officer Mohammad Ali Zia was unsure what motivated the killings, but gender identity issues are a common reason for families to carry about honor killings. 

Although transgender family members are rarely killed for that reason in the United States, the transgender community there still faces extreme daily hardships and an increased assault and murder rate perpetrated against them. 

A recently introduced state bill in Maryland would allow transgender individuals to change their names by forcing judges to issue a waiver to another Maryland law, which requires individuals who wish to change their names to publish the change in a local newspaper.

An anonymous attorney at Nagel Rice LLP (nagelrice.com) said that the law will help keep transgender clients safe. 

SB 581 and HB 39 was sponsored in the Maryland Senate by Senator Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore) and House Delegate Emily Shetty (D-Montgomery). 

Opponents of the bill are upset that it would tie the hands of judges who might have ruled a different way. Senator Bryan Simonaire (R-Pasadena) voted against the legislation but provided no reason when asked for comment.

The Maryland Judiciary also opposes the bill’s passage. Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera wrote, “The Judiciary believes it is important for judges to weigh the facts and circumstances for each individual case. Provisions that place restrictions on the judge prevent the judge from considering legislative intent or factors unique to the case. The notification requirement [of Maryland law] also serves to prevent fraud and mandatory elimination of such notice could lead to an increase in such activities.”

Maryland resident Lilly Tilden says the law didn’t come soon enough for her, and that she found the requirement to publish her former name in The Capital under current law “heartbreaking.”

These kinds of laws are nearly unthinkable in countries like Pakistan, where young women are killed at epidemic-like rates in rural areas across the country. The same can be said of India and some countries in Africa, where honor killings still occur at a trouble rate. Although there has been an increased public outcry and activism from human rights groups over the last few years, the actual number of honor killings hasn’t changed. Some feel that the fight is almost hopeless.

Honor Killings On The Rise In The UK

Honor killings usually occur when a male member of a family decides that a female member has brought the family shame or dishonored the family in some way. There are a number of different reasons usually provided to authorities after these crimes have taken place. They include adultery, scantily clad clothing, a non-traditional relationship, defying the wishes of the father, or refusing to marry. Sometimes, young boys will be asked to carry out the murder because the legal consequences are less serious. 

On occasion, an honor killing occurs after a woman has been raped. The father sees the rape as a disgrace that needs to be purged to guarantee the family’s honor.

In the United Kingdom, honor killings appear to be on the rise — but this could simply be due to the way in which statistics are gathered.

Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell said, “Young women are predominantly the victims of honor-based violence but we are seeing an increase in young men and boys — it’s now about 15 percent of the total numbers.”

But these numbers have exploded because authorities decided to reclassify some cases based on the motivations behind certain types of murders.

Crown Prosecutor Nazir Afzal said, “It will be about making sure we look for the signs so that we don’t miss cases.”

Due to the rise in honor killings over the last two decades, British authorities have introduced a slew of new laws designed to prevent arranged marriages and provide a legal means for victims in these types of unions to dissolve them free of legal consequence. A person found guilty of forcing another person into a marriage or union without consent could be incarcerated for up to two years and slammed with a hefty fine.

The laws were introduced in 2008 in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland — and at least 86 Forced Marriage Protection Orders were granted as a result.

Studies On Sex Differences In Criminal Behavior

We recently discussed the reasons why men are responsible for the lion’s share of society’s aggressive behavior. Although many biological and environmental factors likely play a role in male violence, it seems likely that societal norms are the primary motivator. This is because men are taught from a very young age not to act feminine and to cherish their masculine qualities. These qualities are especially prevalent in Middle Eastern societies where “honor killings” are more prevalent.

Many studies have been done on the “sex” differences inherent in criminal behavior. Studies including Burton et al. (1998) acknowledge the “general theory of crime,” which posits that violent crime — and indeed, most criminal behavior — is perpetrated by individuals with low or non-existent self-control. The study found that low rates of self-control resulted in higher rates of criminal activity for both men and women, but that the rates were significantly higher in men than in women. 

Waiter pay attorney Franklin Dawes acknowledged that some clients had been accused of violence — and that these allegations were usually accurate. Low rates of pay seem connected to those with less self-control, which leads to higher rates of violence. Poverty has always been strongly associated with criminal activity, which is one reason why liberal-leaning groups make lifting families out of poverty one of their primary goals. 

One study looked at the number of crimes committed by men that were generally linked to other behaviors like drinking or drug use. For example, the study discovered that for every 1.28 men who drink regularly, only one woman does. Because alcohol is linked to violent behavior, it shouldn’t be surprising that more men commit violent crimes since more men drink. Of course, this statistic doesn’t come close to explaining the much larger difference in rates of violent crime committed by one sex over the other.

Many scientists believe that the likelihood to commit violent crime later in life is determined early during childhood. Researchers Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi studied childhood delinquency, connecting it to environment over biology (nurture over nature). For example, a lack of parenting might result in a child’s delinquent behavior. Then again, neurocognitive impairments (nature over nurture) could also cause a child’s delinquent behavior. 

Moffitt and Caspi wrote that “life-course-persistent antisocial behavior originates early in life, when the difficult behavior of a high-risk young child is exacerbated by a high-risk social environment.”

They added, “Adolescent-limited antisocial behavior emerges alongside puberty, where otherwise healthy youngsters experience dysphoria during the relatively role-less years between biological maturation and access to mature privileges and responsibilities.” 

Others took on more sociological studies. Psychologist Anne Campbell believes that “cultural interpretations have ‘enhanced’ evolutionarily based sex differences by a process of imposition which stimatizes the expression of aggression by females and causes women to offer exculpatory (rather than justificatory) accounts of their own aggression.” 

It should be noted that gender roles relating to violence and aggression were not often discussed by the scientific community until recently. They were accepted; simply not discussed. 

Why Are Men More Violent Than Women?

It’s a question we’ve asked over and over due to the simple fact that the female body is idolized as this sort of beautiful temple, the defilement of which can lead to a family’s “dishonor.” Mothers don’t kill their male offspring for sleeping around, marrying the wrong person, or looking at someone the wrong way. Honor killings always target young girls and women. That’s not to say that men can’t dishonor the family — it’s just that they become social outcasts for doing so, which is somewhat of a disproportionate punishment.

So why are men more violent than women?

Men are responsible for the vast majority of violent crimes, including murder and rape. This is true in every country on earth. Researchers believe that male aggression stems from various biological and environmental factors that are difficult to pin down.

Many people believe that the hormone testosterone is to blame — but studies are inconclusive and many contradict one another. Some men display aggression in conjunction with a boost in testosterone. Other men display affection in conjunction with a boost in testosterone!

Many researchers believe the more important factor in aggressive behavior is the concept of male masculine behavior. Men are taught that traditionally masculine behavior — including overt aggression — are dominant traits to which people are attracted. This is why the term “fragile masculinity” was coined for those men who experience a “challenge” to their manhood and respond with aggression. 

Researchers also point to a connection between patterns of male violence and beliefs in gender roles. Other men who seem predisposed to acts of violence and aggression display signs of anti-social personality disorder (ASPD). 

These are the reasons why many experts who study biological differences between men and women advocate for a “gentler” society where we don’t promote traditional masculinity as something to be desired. For example, a mother or father telling a son that “boys don’t cry” would not be acceptable in a new paradigm.

We can very easily see similar connections between male violence and gender roles when trying to understand the underlying causes of honor killings.

Indian Man Decapitates Teen Daughter Due To Relationship

Another alleged honor killing occurred in India earlier this year. Indian police arrested a man who they believed was responsible for killing his teen daughter — by beheading — after he became angry over her relationship. Uttar Pradesh police took Sarvesh Kumar into custody. He had been headed to the police station anyway — with his daughter’s head hanging from his own hand. 

Video of the man’s confession was released to BBC News this March. He said that he became angry that his daughter had engaged a man in a relationship without his knowledge or consent, so he locked her up before decapitating her.

These crimes are commonplace in rural regions of India, Pakistan, and many African countries. Although the problem has received worldwide attention in the past couple of decades, there are still no reliable statistics on the number of honor killings year by year, where, or why they occur. Officials believe that hundreds of young girls and women are murdered each year by male family members — and sometimes, by young teenage male family members who are more likely to escape serious legal consequences.

Family murder is not uncommon in the United States, but “honor” is rarely provided as a reason to carry out these heinous crimes. A Volusia teen recently pleaded guilty to strangling his mother — but over an argument about his bad grades, not over one or the other dishonoring the family. 

That said, India’s National Crime Records Bureau does provide unofficial statistics compiled based on inter-family violence in Uttar Pradesh, a province where more honor killings are committed than any other province in India. 

Women in India have struggled to address civil rights for years, but they are getting closer to equality. Indian authorities recently sentenced four men to hang after they raped and murdered a 23-year-old woman in 2012. The event caused massive backlash in India. The country received around 87 reports of rape and sexual assault every day. 

And human rights activists worldwide recently galvanized after a judge ruled that groping a child did not constitute sexual assault without skin-on-skin contact. The ruling allowed a 39-year-old to walk free after he sexually assaulted a 12-year-old victim in 2016. 

The murdered girl in Uttar Pradesh was only 17 years old and was beheaded with an axe.

Hardoi District Police Superintendent Anurag Vats said, “He said he saw his daughter in a compromising position with a man and he beheaded her in a fit of rage…He has confessed to his crime.”

Video of the man walking toward the police station was shared on social media, sparking outrage in India and abroad.

Vice President of All India Democratic Women Association Madhu Garg said, “Daughters in India are seen as a sign of family honor, which results in such crimes. The issue of the right to choice needs immediate attention and a separate law should be made for dealing with honor killing.”

The World History Of Honor Killings: Part IX

This will likely be our final word on the history of honor killings. Though books could be written on the topic and its relationship to modern society — and they have been — our goal is simple: We simply want people to understand why women have been treated as second-class citizens in countries all over the world and, indeed, even here in the United States. As long as we rely on old traditions to lay the groundwork for new laws, these killings will continue.

We’ve discussed the first instances of honor killing around the world, but you may have noticed that we left the Middle East out of that equation. The nomadic cultures that gave rise to the culture of violence and reprisal were the precursors to eventual systems of law that resulted in the subjugation of women at worst, and the idea of male supremacy at best. “Honor killing” is not mentioned in the Quran or related religious texts. So why do Muslim men still feel compelled to kill in the name of honor when such an act is so forbidden by a higher power?

Once again, the answer relies on old practices born from old laws written by only a handful of powerful men who probably weren’t thinking about how their actions might affect future generations.

Sharia law punishes adultery severely, no matter who the culprit is. Gender does not matter. What does matter is that witnesses must be allowed to identify the culprit. And when considering who the witnesses are, gender is important. Only men fit into this role. But authorities are responsible for conviction and punishment — not individuals. 

Because of these laws, there are many countries dominated by a Muslim population where honor killing simply does not occur. It does not occur in Indonesia. And the difference between those places where they do and do not occur? Tradition. Only tradition.

The World History Of Honor Killings: Part VIII

We might not always consider that there was once a system of “honor killing” here in the United States. Have you ever watched an Old Western? Traditionally, these films pit a good guy versus a bad guy in a duel over some form of disagreement: a woman, a theft, etc. You get the picture. There’s a reason why these films evolved to tell this kind of a story. It’s the same reason why nomadic cultures evolved to focus on mob-inspired fear and reprisal for crimes committed: because there wasn’t much in the way of authority.

And that’s not to say that it never existed at all. The point is that when the law seems non-existent or at the least “far away,” then men have always taken it upon themselves to dole out “frontier justice.”

One author explains: “Cultures of honour therefore appear amongst Bedouins, Scottish and English herdsmen of the Border country, and many similar peoples, who have little allegiance to a national government; among cowboys, frontiersmen, and ranchers of the American West, where official law-enforcement often remained out of reach, as famously celebrated in Western movies; and among aristocrats, who enjoy hereditary privileges that put them beyond the reach of general laws. Cultures of honour also flourish in criminal underworlds and gangs, whose members carry large amounts of cash and contraband and cannot complain to the law if it is stolen.”

We also forget about the latter point: there are always hierarchies of society that don’t want to be bothered by the law, and those hierarchies are certainly more apt to resort to violence to implement their own archaic forms of justice; i.e. revenge.

Sexual abuse attorney Paul Mones made it his mission to find compensation for the boyscouts who were victims to abuse over the years, and famously noted how many of them would never be granted the opportunity to have their day in court. But “court” and lawyers like Mones weren’t available to those who faced personal injury before entire communities settled down in one place. They had to make changes themselves. Sometimes, violence seemed like the only way.

The aforementioned author said, “Once a culture of honour exists, it is difficult for its members to make the transition to a culture of law; this requires that people become willing to back down and refuse to immediately retaliate, and from the viewpoint of the culture of honour this appears as a weak and unwise act.”

And perhaps from a western perspective, it’s important to note the cultural relevance between the system of honor killing and the cultivation of radicalism. Once a bomb lands in a Middle Eastern country, many feel that honor has been stolen from them — and again, that debt must be repaid. Thus are terrorists born into the world. When we counterattack, more terrorists are born. As long as one side refuses to back down, the cycle will inevitably repeat. The same is true when considering traditional honor killings.

Until society in the east accepts that laws are more important than longstanding cultural traditions, honor killings will continue unabated.

The World History Of Honor Killings: Part VII

Throughout much of human history, societies were governed by the few — and not the many. This means that relatively few people decided the laws that governed the rest. What happens as a result is simple: A few crazy individuals might be granted the ability, through nothing more than high birth or random chance, to implement changes to society that could echo for millenia. And they have. How does this happen? Almost universally, it happens through law.

One author notes: “One can contrast cultures of honor with cultures of law. From the viewpoint of anthropology, cultures of honor typically appear among nomadic peoples and herdsmen who carry their most valuable property with them and risk having it stolen, without having recourse to law enforcement or government.”

Those of us who live in developed 21st century countries might believe that only anarchy can result from a community that functions without any higher authority, but that’s not necessarily true. Although nomadic tribes had innumerable methods for doling out punishment, it should be noted that many simply adopted the mob mentality: when you stole from one person, you stole from everyone. And how do the people you stole from fix that problem? They delete you from the family (brutally).

The author continues: “In this situation, inspiring fear forms a better strategy than promoting friendship; and cultivating a reputation for swift and disproportionate revenge increases the safety of your person and property. Thinkers ranging from Montesquieu to Seven Pinker have remarked upon the mindset needed for a culture of honour.”
In other words, revenge may have been an appropriate and sensible response for crimes committed by nomadic communities. And that history is important to understanding why honor killings are still committed today, when society has almost universally transitioned from nomadic communities to agricultural and even industrial communities. The trick is getting people to understand that the reasons for their actions are not necessarily relevant to today’s society. Thus far, that has proved difficult for legislators to achieve.

The World History Of Honor Killings: Part VI

We’ve discussed that the very notion of violence for honor may have been passed down through mythological stories. We’ve discussed some of the seeds planted throughout history that may have helped provide the cultural relevance for these murders. Now we’ll consider another question: Does an honor killing help a family absolve itself of the “sin” of the person killed, or is it done for the community as a whole?

We ask this question for a simple reason: Self-preservation has always extended to the family. Parents would often die for their children. In evolutionary terms, that makes a lot of sense. The goal of life is to reproduce. The genetic code is passed down from one generation to the next. Parents protect their offspring in order to ensure this occurs — even when it means they lose their lives in the process.

But this isn’t what happens everywhere in the world.

An honor killing often represents the opposite. And to fully understand why such a murder might transpire, we have to ask ourselves who the murder is meant to “help.” One hypothesis by many scholars is that the act of killing allows the greater community to feel as if a stain has been lifted. 

After all, honor-based murder is based on the family’s dishonor — and family already represents a collective unit made up of more than one person. Why not take it one step further and assign the stolen honor to the entire community? The “injured” party might feel the need to restore honor through murder as some sort of a twisted debt settlement act.

One anonymous author writes: “Men are the only possible sources, or active generators…of honor. The only active effect that women can have on honor, in those cultures in which this is a central value, is to destroy it. But women do have that power: they can destroy the honor of the males in their household. The culturally defined symbol system through which women in patriarchies bring honor or dishonor to men is the world of sex — that is, female sexual behavior.”

It might come off as somewhat imaginative that the entire power hierarchy is so flipped on its head, but the logic is sound: Women are nearly always the victims of honor killings because the ability to give or take honor through sexuality is theirs and theirs alone.

The author continues: “In this value system, which is both absurd from any rational standpoint and highly dangerous to the continued survival of our species given its effect of stimulating male violence, men delegate to women the power to bring dishonor on men. That is, men put their honor in the hands of ‘their’ women.”

And it’s because of this transferral of power that men come to believe that women, who are supposed to be submissive and bend to the will of their male overlords, that men will sometimes commit murder to settle the debts when women fail to meet their unspoken part of the bargain.

The World History Of Honor Killings: Part V

Although many of us believe the Trojan War was as much a myth as Hercules or the Greek gods and goddesses, the event is generally assumed to have actually transpired. “Why” it transpired is certainly a question historians will struggle to answer as long as they’re not entirely certain it did at all, but if the war was real then we can make one educated guess: there is some truth to the idea that it started over a man losing his honor.

The story is one of the simplest ever told. Helen of Troy — said to be the most beautiful woman in the world — is captured by a lover. Her husband has a huge problem with this of course, and so a war begins over her honor. 

Consider this: Whether or not the Trojan War really took place is probably irrelevant. What matters more is its eternal place in history, as myth, legend, or a kernel of the truth. That’s because people will always remember the story and how it was presented — and how it was presented certainly has consequences that are just as serious and just as long-lasting. The story is a much-romanticized notion that a woman’s honor is worth starting a war over.

But the story also lends itself to believe in a romanticized notion of violence for love and family. It lends itself to the belief that death can wipe away “dishonor” and that perhaps violence is the only way — and publicized violence at that. Honor killings might be said to represent the Trojan War but on a smaller scale. 

And the fact that these romanticized notions of violence mingling with honor have been passed down for millennia is why they still occur. It doesn’t matter that they have no basis in rational thought — neither does religion. But the stories still maintain their relevance because we learn about them when we’re young enough to be indoctrinated.