bangladesh, bhutan, burma, feminism, honor killings, india, liberalism, murder, muslim, muslim american, muslim women, nepal, pakistan, rape, rights, south asia, south asian, sri lanka, women's rights
I am bothered by the number of honor killings that have happened in the western world. I did not realize how bad they were until I came across this site called Memini. Although the site needs a lot of technical work on it, it conveyed a serious thematic problem: parents making too harsh of punishments because their daughters were becoming “too westernized”.
Reading the stories of every girl killed simply because she did not conform to the rules and norms her parents or society set for her was chilling, but what was more chilling were the people who justified it – especially other women. Hearing someone say “Well, she used to dress scantily.” (the not explicitly said part: “she had it coming”) Sound familiar? Same logic used for rape victims, except in honor killings it is used for murder.
What I attempt to discuss and try to understand is the types of mentalities which perpetuate these gruesome and unfortunate catastrophes – mentalities of people living in (at least my case) the U.S. I am not saying these individuals would go as far as saying honor killing is okay, but there is something to be said about the way in which they think about female comportment.
First case in point (and I’m going based off my experiences and what I’ve encountered so it certainly doesn’t speak for everybody else’s experiences with this topic): I remember reading a “self-righteous” wall post on Facebook which really disturbed me. I understood the woman’s argument about headscarf and about how it was presumptuous to assume that women wearing headscarf were all oppressed. However, by insulting women who wear bathing suits or are on the opposite end of the “covering”, she was being just as vile as the people making assumptions about women in headscarves. She pretty much said that covered girls were superior because they protected themselves while “those” girls were just “asking to be raped”.
First of all, rape is not about sex. It is about power, whether a woman is covered or not, but aside from that, comments like these perpetuate these (unfortunately) prevailing mindsets about rape and abuse. And, believe it or not, men are not the only “perpetuators” of such stereotypes. Women are too, as seen above.
Another case in point: discussion I had with an older desi auntie about the killing of Aqsa Parvez in Toronto. She kept arguing that this “honor killing” thing was to make Muslims look bad. I just could not help but become extremely bothered by this comment. What bothered me more was that this auntie was more concerned that the media potentially used “Aqsa being forced to wear a headscarf” as a way to make Islam look bad, when (according to her) the real issue was she ran away because she had a boyfriend. Wow. A young teenager was killed. That is it. Whether she had a boyfriend or whether she was rebellious is not even relevant. Why deny it? Why become defensive?
Because denial is the easiest way to justify actions.
Amongst the Desi community it is our way of avoiding uncomfortable topics, such as these. Undoubtedly, adjusting to life in a western country is difficult for many parents from South Asia and the MENA region, and many do not hope to see their daughters go down “liberal paths because they “care”. But what about sons? I have not heard of “honor killings” happening as often, if at all, with them. In fact, in many cases these “sons” have been involved in killing their own sisters, only continuing the cycle of irrational patriarchy. The bottom line is: Parenting is difficult. Murder doesn’t make it easier.
Either way, it is time to understand that these cases aren’t just a “few isolated, extreme cases” in the West. There have been too many young women who have died of these “honor killings” for no reason other than they were too “western” or decided to live against the pressure and control of their societies, and it leads me to wonder if it is always about education or income when it comes to these problems. It is a change needed in mentality from within, and willingness to say that this is UNACCEPTABLE, rather than seeing it as an “interference” in others’ family matters. By no means am I saying anybody has all of the solutions, but to care about the problem is a start.
If you are interested in learning more about honor killings, or just reading stories, or maybe the activist in you would like to do something here are resources:
http://www.care2.com/news/member/570407010/2775516 (a film coming out about honor killing with the involvement of singer from Norway, Deeyah)
http://www.asafeworldforwomen.org/domestic-violence/-honor-killing.html (the Memini site including stories of women in Europe, US, and Canada who have died from honor killings)