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In several regions of the world, a tradition disguised in secrecy and perpetuated by a distorted interpretation of cultural and religious values has claimed the lives of countless innocent women.

Honour killings, a form of patriarchal violence, are a harsh and catastrophic phenomenon that stems from a dangerous combination of gender stereotypes, societal pressure, and religious fanaticism.

The term “honour killing” is often used to describe the murder of a woman or girl who has allegedly brought shame to her family or community.

The victim may have committed an act deemed “unacceptable” by traditional norms, such as falling in love with someone outside of her family’s approval, pursuing higher education or a career, or even being the victim of domestic violence. The perpetrators of these crimes are often the victim’s family members.

According to the United Nations, at least 5,000 women are killed every year as a result of honour killings. This overwhelming number is likely underreported, as many victims are killed in secret or the crime is covered up by local authorities.

Honour killings are not limited to any one region or culture; they have been documented in countries around the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Read more by Maram Saleh

Barbaric and inhumane

The victims of honour killings are often young women and girls who are still in their teens or early twenties. They are frequently subjected to abuse before being killed. The methods used to kill them are often barbaric and inhumane.

Perpetrators of honour killings usually “justify” their criminal acts as a means of restoring family honour and protecting their reputation. Victims are typically presented as being responsible for their own deaths, rather than as innocent victims of brutality and abuse of power.

Honour killings have catastrophic implications for victims, their families, and communities. The trauma generated by these murders can linger for decades, sustaining a cycle of violence and terror.

The lack of effective laws and enforcement mechanisms has created a culture of impunity for perpetrators of honour killings.

In recent years, there has been an increased awareness of the need to combat honour killings and other types of gender-based violence. Governments and civil society organisations throughout the world have initiated campaigns to raise awareness about the problem and assist victims and their families.

A key step is to acknowledge honour killings as a type of gender-based violence thus holding criminals accountable for their actions. This necessitates a change in societal views regarding women’s rights and dignity.

Governments can also help prevent honour killings by enacting laws that defend women’s rights and provide victims with support services. Education and awareness initiatives can also serve to shift cultural perceptions about women’s roles and rights.

Honour killings are a blunt reminder of the ongoing struggle for women’s rights and dignity around the world. These crimes are rooted in a toxic mix of patriarchal attitudes, religious extremism, and societal pressure.

Recognising honour killings is not a euphemism to use and we should say it as it is, which is manslaughter and the murderers should not walk freely thinking they hold honour in their hands while it is dripping blood.

There is no honour in “honour killings”. Humans deserve to be safe.

Maram Saleh, a Bahraini law student, finds inspiration in the realms of research and writing