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9/22/03 - HONOR KILLINGS IN JORDAN - 2003-09-23


So-called “honor killings” in Jordan continue at an alarming rate. Recently, three brothers confessed to axing to death their two sisters for fleeing the family home. The elder sister had left nearly two years ago to marry against her family’s wishes, while the younger one ran away three months ago to join her. These “honor killings” are generally carried out by the men in the family. A woman or girl may be murdered for marrying someone her family disapproves of, seeking a divorce, being raped, being suspected of adultery, dating without her parents' permission, or even being the subject of a rumor.

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli condemned the “vicious murders.” “These reports,” he said, “are a chilling reminder that the terrible practice of ‘honor killings’ continues to impede efforts of nations like Jordan to extend the full protection of its legal system to each of its citizens.”

Under Jordan’s current laws, people found guilty of committing “honor killings” often receive sentences as light as six months in prison. Some escape prison completely.

In recent weeks, the lower house of Jordan’s parliament has voted twice to reject imposing harsher sentences on men who kill female relatives. This must change. As Mr. Ereli said, it is time for the “government of Jordan to take action to ensure judicial protection for all its citizens, as well as the ability to prosecute those responsible for these crimes.”

“Honor killings” are rooted in Jordan’s Bedouin tradition. The code of “honor killings” has its origins in the Hammurabi and Assyrian laws from 1200 B.C., which declared a woman’s chastity to be her family’s property. The practice remains pervasive even among urbanized Arabs and affects both Muslims and Christians. According to published statistics, an average of one Jordanian woman every week is murdered for conduct deemed by family members to have dishonored them. This can include being a victim of rumor or a victim of rape.

“Honor killings” are a problem in many countries besides Jordan. They are also perpetrated in Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Yemen, and Iraq, among other countries. In all countries where such murders occur, governments need to adopt and enforce appropriate laws. All people, including women, deserve equal protection under the law.

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