Lebanon’s senior Shiite cleric issued a religious ruling, or fatwa, forbidding honor killings. Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah called the practice of murdering a female relative for alleged sexual misconduct a “vicious phenomenon.”
“I view the ‘crime of honor’ as a repulsive act, condemned and prohibited by religion,” declared Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah in the Fatwa. He said no one, neither husband, father nor other family member, has the authority to punish a woman for sexual misconduct. That power, he says, belongs to the judiciary. Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah said those who commit honor killings “must be punished in this life.” The Shiite cleric said honor crimes are considered in Islam as “one of the Kabair [severe sins] whose perpetrator deserves to enter Hellfire in the afterlife.”
In its latest human rights report, the United States State Department said, “the legal system [in Lebanon] was discriminatory in its handling of honor crimes.” Article five-hundred-sixty-two of the Lebanese Penal Code states that if a man catches a female family member in adultery or a suspicious situation with another person and murders her he will benefit from a mitigating excuse. The U-N’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has called on Lebanon to change this law.
Honor killings continue to occur in a number of countries in the Greater Middle East. The U-N reports that as many as five-thousand women are murdered each year in honor killings by members of their own families. More than a thousand of those killings take place in Pakistan alone. Under international human rights law, governments are obligated to provide protection for women from such gender-based violence.
Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli is Senior Advisor to U-S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for Women’s Empowerment. She says that the U.S. stands with those who stand against honor killings:
“The good thing is unlike previous times, now we don’t sweep it under the carpet. Even in relationships which are important, where we realize state-to-state bilateral relations are key, the United States Government raises these issues all the way to the top.”
President George W. Bush says support for human rights, including women’s rights, is a cornerstone of American foreign policy.