The phrase ‘honor killings’ is one most people have likely heard in passing at least once or twice, but very few people are truly educated on what this phrase is in reference to.
As the name would imply, honor killings refer to killings made, often by family members, in the name of honor. Generally, these killings are known to target women and LGBTQAP+ individuals, most often gay men.
According to Amnesty International, the UN estimates that 5,000 women and girls are murdered each year in the name of honor, and many countries do not instill legislation or laws against honor killings. BBC reports that in 2014 alone, 1,000 women died in Pakistan from honor-related attacks.
Honor killings are generally known to be prevalent in the Middle East and South Asia, but they are also known to occur in Africa, Europe and, yes, even in the United States.
But why do these killings occur?
The National Geographic provides some insight into the reasons used to justify these killings, including seeing women as property and performing these killings in the name of family honor.
The world we live in has a tendency to veer towards patriarchal systems, and none of these societies are exempt from this male-dominated view of our world. Therefore, many of these cultural views see women as property of the males in their life — first their fathers and then their husbands.
Women are generally killed with the justification that they took part in marital infidelity, pre-marital sex, flirting, served a meal at the wrong time or even that they were forced into rape.
The other common reasoning behind these killings is that they are made in the name of family honor. All of the above instances are considered dishonorable acts by women, and in many cultures that practice honor killings, women bringing dishonor to the family is the worst crime that can be committed.
Though these honor killings still exist in our world today, individuals and organizations are taking action against them.
Increased awareness of honor killings can inspire individuals outside of these cultures to act on this issue. For example, the UN has instilled programs in the Development Fund for Women to work on the issue of honor killings.
There are also a number of inspirational stories of women who have been raised in their societies and stood up against the violence against women. Khalida Brohi, a Pakistani woman who was interviewed by NPR, shared how her father raised her to understand the realities of what true honor is, which led her to grow into an activist who works to educate women through several nonprofit organizations and speaks out against honor killings.
Though change is slow, it is a possibility, and allowing yourself an unbiased and nuanced understanding of honor killings is the first step in working to prevent this violence against future women.