Posted by: Lister | September 7, 2008

Honour as an excuse

Maha, an 18 year old, was murdered by her brother in Jordan. He said it was to restore the families honour. But he was running a prostitution ring which his sister wanted to leave.

When 18-year-old Maha decided that she wanted to quit her family’s prostitution ring, her brother killed her and alleged it was to “cleanse” the family’s honour.

[…] In Jordan, between 15 and 20 women are murdered annually in the name of “honour” and at least eight such killings have been reported so far this year, according to Jordanian authorities. Last year 17 such murders were recorded.

But the label “honour killings” can be misleading in this tiny kingdom’s male-dominated society of about six million people.

Judges, lawyers, activists and experts agree that in most cases men exploit lenient laws to murder women for inheritance, settling family feuds or to hide other crimes.

“Maha did not want to continue to prostitute herself, so her brother killed her,” Israa Tawalbeh, said Jordan’s first woman coroner.

According to Tawalbeh, Maha’s brother was a drug addict with a criminal record and ran the family’s prostitution ring in an east Amman neighbourhood.

“After killing his sister, he turned himself in and claimed that he murdered her to cleanse the family’s honour. Of course forensic examination proved that she worked in prostitution, and the brother was sentenced to two years in prison,” she said.

“Nobody 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.”

Judge Jehad Oteibi, spokesman for the Judiciary Council, said court records show that many “honour killings” are committed for reasons related to inheritance.

[…] “Many women are forced to give up their rights or face death. Their families might kill them and allege it is related to honour, and not money,” Oteibi said.

“But we can’t know the truth because the women are dead.”

[…] According to article 340 of the penal code, 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” should they murder the woman.

For women, “a wife who surprises her husband in the crime of adultery or in an unlawful bed in the marital home” may invoke a similar defence — but there are no reports or any official figures on any “honour” killings of men in Jordan.

Article 98 of the penal code stipulates that “an extenuating justification can be invoked by anyone who commits a crime in a fit of rage as a result of an unrightful and dangerous act carried out by the victim” — which may significantly reduce penalties for murder.

This compares to a “crime of passion” in some Western governments.

Although only few defendants were able to meet the requirements of the law, most have avoided trial for murder, rights activists say. The maximum penalty for first-degree murder is death and for second-degree murder 15 years in jail.

But even those convicted rarely spend more than two years in prison.

[…] Qaddumi – along with other experts – noted that Islam prohibits such crimes and that the problem is not “purely Jordanian”.

“To stop the killing of women article 340 should be scrapped. I think Islamic sharia law should be applied,” she said.

Under sharia law, “punishment for adultery or fornication can’t be enforced unless there is a confession by the culprit or a testimony of four reliable, sane and adult eyewitnesses who each saw the process of sexual intercourse.”

Such punishments are meant to be only applied by a state when its citizens are aware of them, and throughout history they rarely took place as it is unlikely that a man or woman would voluntarily confess of adultery when knowing its punishment.

[…] In fact, in Islam, acts of ?honour killings’ amount to murder and are usually punishable by death.

Asma Khader, secretary general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, said “the level of leniency in enforcing the law has dropped.”

[…] Jordan’s King Abdullah II, his wife Queen Rania and other royals have led efforts to fight “honour killings” and reform the law.

“This practice of ‘honour killing’ is a form of murder without trial, which is contrary to Islam,” the queen has said.

(Via MMW, where one of the comments links to Daily Times of Pakistan).

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