ADELE BUTLER – Women of Spirit: No Honor in Murder





I never knew that there was such a thing as “honor killing” until I learned about it from Equality Now about seven years ago. The term itself is an oxymoron. How can there be honor in killing? How could the family’s honor be worth someone’s life?

I read of a seventeen year old Turkish woman who was murdered by her fifteen year old brother after she left the women’s shelter where she had been staying. She had gone into the shelter to escape violence at home. When the family learned she had left they found her and her body was discovered half buried in the province of Diyarbakır. She had been strangled in an honor killing (

Why was this an honor killing?

Was it because she had left home and sought refuge in a shelter? Did that action bring disgrace on the family? What about the violence she had to endure? What about her rights to leave a situation if she feared for her safety? Or was she killed for another reason such as marrying the man of her choice.

There is a case of another twenty year old woman in Pakistan who was electrocuted to death on the orders of her father and three uncles because she had eloped with the man of her choice. She had been paraded around the village with a blackened face and her hair chopped off. She was accused of having illicit relations ( Imagine living in a society where you, as a woman cannot choose to be with the man you love because if you do, your family murders you in the name of honor.

This was a violation of a woman’s right to marry and human rights. It is wishful thinking to believe that any justice will be forthcoming . This case, like others will be relegated to personal matters for families to settle among themselves to the detriment of the women.

Something needs to be done for these women and the sixteen year old Turkish girl who was buried alive by her relatives for talking to boys ( The twenty year old Israeli Muslim woman who was stabbed to death by her teenage brother simply because she wanted to leave the home more often and buy a cell phone ( The mother who deserted her husband to stay with her divorced daughter who were brutally murdered by the mother’s son because he needed to clean the honour of his family ( The pregnant daughter who was killed by her father because she refused a marriage arranged by her family and ran away with her boyfriend (

The government needs to step in.

Murder should never be tolerated. If families have disputes, they should be taken to court and sorted out there. And anyone who commits an honor killing should be charged and receive a sentence fitting the crime. Women should be protected. Honor killings are a violation of human rights and any society that professes to be upholding the law should put the rights of its citizens first. Discrimination against women needs to be dealt with. Families should not have the right or the opportunity to terminate the lives of women or girls in order to keep the family’s honor intact.

In our society if we have a problem with our teenage girls talking to boys we talk to them about it. We don’t have a problem with the men our daughters choose to marry as long as they are in healthy and loving relationships. There are shelters that help women and their children. Many of them came from abusive marriages, forced to flee for their safety. Many are forced to leave their countries to come to Canada where they try to start new lives. They find what they never had–love, hope and a bright future. They find freedom to love and to live.

There is no honor in taking someone’s life because she did something you don’t like. She has rights too. Her life is worth something. As your sister or a daughter, she deserves your love not hate. She is a part of you. There is nothing honorable in killing her to satisfy your need to save face. There is no honor in beating your wife and then killing her because you could not have children and your family pressured you to take a second wife. There is no honor in sending your daughter back to an abusive husband.

Governments need to do the honorable thing–stop the honor killings! Honor should not be above the law! The law should be protecting women and girls. It must put an end to a dishonorable and barbaric practice.

There is one glimmer of hope and it is found in the sad case of a sixteen year old girl who became pregnant after being raped. She was able to conceal her pregnancy but her family found out when she was hospitalized for a severe headache. Threats and bribes were made so she was kept in the hospital for her safety. However, she was released and sent home when her father promised that she would not be harmed. Unfortunately, her brother shot her just hours after she left the hospital. The brother, father, mother and two uncles received life sentences for her murder. Justice was served. We need more cases to end like this one where those responsible for the honor killings will receive life sentences. The article says that in recent years the Turkish government is stepping up in its efforts to stamp out honor killings ( Other governments need to step up too.


Let us honor the memories of these women and girls who have been silenced by speaking out.

Adele Butler, 2011.


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