Honor Killing: The traditional practice in certain countries of killing a family member who is believed to have brought shame upon their family. [Source: Merriam-Webster Online]
According to the Honour Based Violence Network, there are roughly 5,000 worldwide instances of honor-killings per year. Two-fifths of these heinous acts of familial violence are reported to occur in predominantly fundamentalist-Islam nations such as India and Pakistan. Though these numbers reflect a pandemic in particular “cultural areas,” the trend of this barbaric practice is on the rise as well in the United States.
Reasons for honor killings are broad and varied, though most commonly include: the victim’s refusal to enter an arranged marriage, dating or having intercourse in an “inappropriate” and unapproved manner, and dressing provocatively or renouncing a particular faith or way of life. Though young females are the most frequent victims, in men, engaging in a non-heterosexual activity is often seen as grounds for an honor killing to be approved.
But just how are honor killings planned and approved? Generally, an honor killing is scheduled and executed by members of the victims’ family. A “council” of patriarchs and the victim’s parents and siblings will confer with one another, deciding the fate and manner in which the act of death or mutilation will be carried out.
According to various data, the majority of honor killings are physically executed by either the victim’s father or a sibling under the age of 18. The council will often select a minor to be the “trigger-person” to avoid the harshest of judicial penalties for the murderous or gravely injurious crime. However, due to certain societal mores, many of these vile acts remain either unreported or unsolved.
Luckily, a growing campaign of activism has brought light to this disturbing worldwide practice. One such medium of raising awareness and shining a beacon of justice upon the atrocity of honor killings is the Oscar-Nominated documentary, A Girl In The River: The Price Of Forgiveness, set to premiere on HBO March 7.
[Video courtesy of YouTube.]
The poignant and telling documentary, directed by acclaimed filmmakers Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Saad Zuberi explores the barbaric honor killings of seven Pakistani men and women who were slain for merely celebrating together during a 2012 wedding ceremony.
According to Vice News, tragically, the youngest of the victims was a 12-year-old girl. Four of the victims, all sisters, were allegedly held captive for a month’s time while tortured before their executions were carried out.
Afzal Kohistan and his brother went into hiding to avoid certain death by the council. In retribution, the elders killed three of the Kohistan’s brothers instead.
The film also explores the resolve and suffering of the one female victim to survive the hellacious ordeal.
In response to the release of Girl On The River, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had these comments for USA Today concerning his personal view regarding his countries’ common practice of familial killing.
“There is no honor in honor killing.” said Sharif after viewing a recent screening of the film.
Although Rubina Saigol, a rights activist in Lahore, had this to say to USA Today concerning the widespread nature of honor killings in the country of Pakistan.
“So-called ‘honor killings’ take place in virtually every part of Pakistan, urban or rural, developed or underdeveloped, all social classes, castes, ethnicities, sects.” “Pakistan has not moved forward significantly with regard to violence against women and discriminatory laws despite an increased number of women in parliament and government.”
Saigol further explained “honor killings” are often a guise for other sinister motives. “Honor is simply the excuse used to cover up the crime, which is often for seizing property and settling economic and other disputes.”
However these reprehensible acts of human indignity are described, one thing is certain: more films such as Girl On The River should be brought to the public forefront. A serious and earnest dialogue concerning the brutal nature of “honor killings” must be created throughout the world-community in order to save countless innocent lives.
[Image courtesy of Pool/Getty Images]