In countries throughout the Middle East, India, Pakistan, and Brazil, women and girls are routinely killed by family members who believe that they have violated the family’s honor in some way.
Most often, women are thought to violate their family’s honor by losing their virginity. A girl or woman who has been accused of losing her virginity is often sent to a doctor who will then speculate as to whether she may have engaged in sexual activity. Jordanian pathologist Dr. Mu’Men Hadidi reported that about 80% of the women he has performed autopsies on were killed soon after undergoing a virginity test.
Since women are often blamed for “inviting” or “seducing” men to rape them, even incest victims are blamed for tarnishing their family’s honor and killed. In cases where a woman’s “guilt or innocence” cannot be established, families assume that they are guilty.
In Jordan, these “honor killings” make up 25% of the country’s total murder rate. Journalist Rana Husseini , Queen Noor, and women’s groups are fighting to end these brutal murders. Jordan Times writer Husseini has devoted her career to writing about honor killings, despite resistance from the public and editors who argue that her work is sullying Jordan’s reputation.
When Husseini interviewed a man that murdered his sister after she had been raped, the brother showed no remorse, and compared his sister to a “bad apple” that could ruin his entire family. Husseini also spoke to the family of a girl who was murdered by her brother after another brother had raped her. The family told her that the slain daughter had “seduced” her brother into raping her. “And this is when I realized that, really, this society tends to blame women for everything…I decided that I wanted to do something about it.”
Husseini noted that those convicted of “honor killings” often face very short prison sentences of anywhere from 3 months to a year. Currently, Jordanian law puts honor killings in a separate category from other murders, and Jordan’s Queen Noor is trying to change that by publicly voicing her opposition. She noted that the laws are currently under review and noted that they are “not consistent with Islam or with our constitution.”
Jordanian Women’s Union has established a hotline and a counseling center for women in danger. Jordan’s police department formed a domestic violence unit last year, but since there are no shelters for endangered women, the only way police can protect them is by imprisoning them.