Cultural intolerance, stereotyping of different groups in a society, (for example homosexuals, different nationalities, and ethnicities), and intense dislike of certain groups can lead to aggressive and violent behavior towards victims and result in xenophobic or homophobic violence. Honor killings are an extreme form of punishment exacted by family or community members ostensibly to regain lost family honor in the wake of “dishonorable” behavior such as homosexuality, adultery or other sexual impropriety.
The most common types of honor violence perpetrated in honor cultures are:
1. Forced marriage
2. Honor-based physical domestic violence
3. Female genital mutilation
4. Honor killings
Honor killings are carried out by a family or community member as a way to regain the honor of the family in the case of perceived damage. Those responsible for murder can be siblings, husbands, parents, extended family members, or members of the community. Although there have been some cases of honor killings documented among all the major religions of the world, most occur in the Islamic regions of the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. No one really knows the true figures, but in the year 2000, the United Nations estimated that 5,000 killings took place worldwide every year.
Who Are The Victims?
The most common victims of honor-killings are teenage girls averaging 17 years and older women averaging 36 years old. Among men the most common reason is homosexuality. The practice seems to be on the increase and it is not clear whether this is because of better reporting, or the internet which plays a crucial role in helping to expose this violent behavior but at the same time creating opportunities for family members to track down relatives who are behaving “inappropriately”. The exposure of Westernized ways through popular media or immigration to age-old cultures that are less sophisticated and sexually liberated has resulted in more reasons for honor killings.
Many homosexuals have died or have been severely injured at the hands of their relatives for thousands of years and the murder of Ahmed Yildiz in Turkey helped coin the term of “gay honor killings”. Reports that more than a hundred gay or bisexual men were recently imprisoned and tortured in Chechnya forced dozens of gay men to escape from the country fearing for their lives. Almost all men in Chechnya are afraid of honor killings as the country is extremely conservative and predominantly Muslim. If families report gay men to the police they become a stain on the honor of the entire family. Even extended family members are seen by the community as being tainted, making it hard for young people to find marriage partners.
Homophobia is not confined to Chechnya but it is widespread throughout the whole of Russia where homosexual propaganda was controversially outlawed in 2013. Gay men are often sent to their family after being released from custody, essentially calling on relatives to carry out honor killings. Gay men know that their relatives will kill them in order to restore the family’s reputation that was tainted by them. Although there are gay organizations that can provide these men with accommodation, the fear that the Chechen diaspora could spread to the rest of Russia and continue the persecution they endured makes most of them want to leave their country of birth.
The first measure for stopping gay honor-killings that come to mind is an increase in punishment for perpetrators, but what really should be done is eradicating the motivation behind the killings. Honor-based cultures need to take serious measures to combat hate speech, discrimination, and murders against groups that are “different”, especially against homosexual men. Until then gay honor-killings will remain a festering sore on the face of the planet.