An honor killing is where a person is killed due to his or her immoral actions, normally by a relative, in order to restore honor to the family. This practice is normally aimed at women who have been found guilty of an immoral practice.
An honor suicide on the other hand is a practice whereby a person takes their own life in order to restore honor to themselves, their family or a master. Honor suicides can take many different forms and can either be voluntary or coerced.
A form of voluntary honor suicide is seen the ancient ritual of Japanese Seppuku. This is where a Samurai would kill himself when he has been found to be dishonorable to save his Daimyo from the shame of having to take his life. Shimbu-tai is another form of Japanese suicide where a soldier takes his own life in a way that will inflict maximum damage and casualties on the enemy.
Coerced honor suicide is normally where a woman who has committed an immoral act is persuaded that there is no other way for her to restore honor or to continue life other than to kill herself. This is normally done by threatening torture, death or imprisonment of herself, family members or loved ones.
Immoral acts in both the form of honor killing and suicide can range widely. Dressing salaciously, conversing with men, adultery, rape and other acts are all considered to be reason for an honor suicide or killing.
Unfortunately, in some circumstances, no evidence of the alleged act is necessary for the practice to be enforced. In most cases, the husband, father or other relative will force the woman into a position where she thinks she has no other option.
The practice is also widely used to cover up the crime of murder. Due to the fact that honor suicides are rarely investigated in the countries in which they are practiced, it is the ideal means to literally get away with murder.
The main similarity between the two is that the act is meant to restore honor to another person or family by the taking of a life. The difference lies mainly in the means in which this is achieved, the one through suicide and the other through death at the hand of a relative or other person.
Both of these practices are highly controversial as there is no legal or legislated way of determining guilt or innocence. However, in most countries where they are practiced, the law simply overlooks the murder or suicide. In other words, even though they are illegal in most countries around the world, they are not policed as they should be.
Honor killings can however result in charges of murder. Honor suicides on the other hand that were used as means to cover up a murder rarely result in charges due to the lack of investigation into the issue. The U.N. has started making moves to ensure that all honor suicides are investigated.