Jordanian human rights advocates are fighting to raise awareness of not just the roughly two dozen honor killings in that country each year, but the fact that some of these killings are being falsely portrayed as motivated by religious values. Indeed, Jordan’s first female coroner, Israa Tawalbeh, has identified one 18-year-old girl named Maha who was killed by her brother when she refused to continue to work for him as a prostitute — he claimed to have killed her for his family’s honor.
Tawalbeh found that Maha’s brother was a drug addict with a criminal record who ran the family’s prostitution ring in Amman. He successfully claimed an honor killing and was given only a two-year sentence. Tawalbeh insists “[n]obody cared that the girl wanted to quit the prostitution business. Her brother got away because it is a male-dominated society and it is unfair.”
Others have found cases where honor killings are claimed when male relatives simply wanted inheritance money in the family.
According to Human Rights Watch, 95 percent of women killed in 1997 in Jordan in alleged honour killings were later proved to be innocent.
Jordan actually codified the right to kill for honor. Article 340 of the penal code states that a defendant who “surprises his wife or any close female relative” in an act of adultery or fornication may invoke a defence of “crime of honour.”
There have been a steady stream of shocking “honor killing” cases out of the Middle East in the last year — showing not a sudden increase in killings but an sudden increase in world attention to the abuse of women in these countries, here and here and here.
It is not surprising that, when countries tolerate or even codify the tradition of honor killing, it will be used as an excuse for murder in some cases. The question is how long it will take for countries to identify the mistreatment of women in these countries as a human rights violation and call for international action.
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