Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Honour killings" bring dishonour to all human beings everywhere

There is no way for a western observer to comprehend the stoning of a family member, especially the stoning of a female family member who, while pregnant, has chosen the person with whom she wishes to spend her life with. There is also no comprehension, in the west, about the manner in which women are being treated by some in various parts of the world.
Denying young girls a formal education, as part of the path to escape the kind of domestic bondage to which women have been "subjected" for centuries, and denying those same women the right to dress as they wish and also to choose the partner, for love, are also concepts we find heinous and intolerable.
We watch as young Muslim women walk a few paces behind their male partners, on our streets, covered almost in what we would consider a 'nun's' habit, so that their whole being is hidden from public view, except their faces, and we wonder what other kinds of "oppression" they are suffering under their male partners, their fathers and their brothers.
And while human rights abuses take on multiple forms, in many countries, the rights of women may well be, or will become, the primary focus of human rights abuses in this century.
In the contemporary landscape of news stories that have inflamed the whole world, the Boko Haram kidnapping of some 300 young girls from their dormitories in Nigeria ranks as a possible turning point, along with the shooting of the young Pakistani girl, Malala by the Taliban.
The west is slowing awakening to the plight of women around the world, although there is also a considerable degree of oppression of women, more subtle and based on making money through advertising, modelling, and in a perversion of the "Pygmalion" archetype, turning young women into cash-cows, through photo-shoots of their barely clad bodies both for 'entertainment' (porn) and for the purpose of selling various products.
So the perception of women's sexuality, whether for capitalistic profit or for political morality, another form of ideology, is a central issue for the world's consideration. And there seems to be a widening gap between the perceptions, values and aspirations for women in the west from that in many countries in the east and Middle East.
Yesterday we read of another stoning of a pregnant woman in Lahor Pakistan, that revolted many westerners.
Here is a brief account from the Globe and Mail:
A pregnant woman was stoned to death Tuesday by her own family outside a courthouse in the Pakistani city of Lahore for marrying the man she loved.
The woman was killed while on her way to court to contest an abduction case her family had filed against her husband. Her father was promptly arrested on murder charges, police investigator Rana Mujahid said, adding that police were working to apprehend all those who participated in this “heinous crime.” ( By K.M. Chaudhry and Zaheer Babar, The Associated Press. in Globe and Mail, May 27, 2014)
However, such 'honour killings' are also occurring in Canada, where there have been some study done on their meaning by professionals whose credentials fit the task.
Here is a brief excerpt of an report from one such professional:
Dr. Amin Muhammad is a psychiatrist at Memorial University in St. John's, N.L., who is currently working on a report for the federal government about honour killings in Canada. He said there've been 13 such cases in the country since 2002.
"We are seeing an upward trend," he said. "More cases are coming to the forefront in the legal system."Noting honour killings are not in any way condoned in the Qur'an, Islam's holy book, he suggested the idea is coming up more as a defence for murder by people hoping to take advantage of Canada's cultural sensitivity in order to receive a more lenient sentence.He also said he suspects mental-health issues are behind most cases."We cannot rule out personality disorder among the perpetrators or some sort of psychopathology," he said."I think all such cases should be evaluated from a mental-health perspective."Muhammad said that since the UN began cracking down on the issue of honour killings, no country is any longer officially supporting the practice.That said, a report Muhammad published two years ago found a number of countries actually allow for a partial or full defence against criminal charges on the basis of honour killing, including: Argentina, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Guatemala, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Venezuela, Peru and Egypt.While many recent cases in western society involve Muslims, Muhammad said honour killings have also been committed in the name of Hinduism, Sikhism and Christianity. (By Tobi Cohen, Canwest News Service, in Vancouver Sun, May 27, 2014)Unfortunately, however, while 'personality disorder' may be a significant contributing factor in these heinous events, there is also a social, political and cultural side to the issue.Can the world simply stand by, as too many in the west have done when mass killings have occurred in the United States in particular, and merely dismissed these acts as those of people suffering a personality disorder, or does the fact of these occurrences demand some collective, concerted and preventive action?Is there not, and we respectfully submit that there is, some broader social, political and cultural development in these acts which the 'body politic' cannot and must not ignore? Are we witnessing, not only the emergence of 'personality disorders' in greater numbers, but also acts that demean not only those who are victims, and those committing these acts, but also the whole of a society that countenances such acts, while not being able or willing to take collective steps to provide the safety and security of too many innocent people, like young children and women.Case studies, while necessary to the establishment of culpability in legal matters, do eventually link and combine into a coalesced mass of public opinion which says, "We have to take collective action to reduce the impact of these inhuman acts of cruelty and brutality, especially when we can see that the most vulnerable are under attack."And our response does not have to be more heinous than the acts which we are attempting to prevent. We all have a massive task ahead of us if we are to create conditions in which women and young girls, especially, are to be able to make the kinds of choices that we consider normal and acceptable, in conditions free from fear and assassination, from those whom they considered part of their family.And, while in too many places, those committing these heinous acts, in the name of 'family honour' are too often given very light sentences, if any, dependent on sloppy police and prosecutorial work, these acts will not only continue but perhaps even grow in numbers.There is, or at least there seems to be, something like penetrating education and transformation of human values that we might consider, at the highest levels of our political decision-making, to begin to address this form of terror against women and young girls.


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