Kuwait City: A 35-year-old pregnant Kuwaiti woman was shot dead by her brother on Wednesday due to a marriage dispute.
Although the father of Fatima Al Ajmi and other brother had approved the marriage, one of her siblings was against it as her husband was not from the same tribe.
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“This was an individual act that was taken out of maliciousness and a medieval mentality. This act came out of hate for his sister and his personal opinion that she has embarrassed the family,” Hesham Al Mulla, the lawyer handling Al Ajmi’s case, told Gulf News.
Al Ajmi suffered several gun shots - the first two were fired by her brother inside her house in the presence of her one-year-old child. Hearing the gun shots, Al Ajmi’s husband rushed her to hospital. Security forces were stationed at the entrance of the hospital, but her brother entered through a backdoor and into the ICU and fired four more shots that killed his sister.
Since Al Ajmi got married two years ago, she has was threatened several times by her brother.
The murder has sparked uproar on social media, with many people demanding justice.
“I would say most people were horrified that something like that can happen in Kuwait. However, I think the main reason behind the uproar is because she was killed in the hospital. Many people have mentioned that they were appalled that something like this can happen in a medical institution,” Sundus Hussein, co-founder of Abolish 153, told Gulf News.
The murder of Al Ajmi comes a few weeks after a historic win for women’s rights, as the National Assembly approved a domestic violence draft law.
History of honour killings
While the killing of Al Ajmi does not fit the textbook definition of honour killings, her death is similar to many other women as they were killed by family members for ‘dishonoring the family’.
“What defines honour? It is a loose term that can mean anything as simple as speaking to a male colleague on the phone,” Hussein explained.
Many perpetrators hide behind Article 153 of the Kuwaiti penal code, which states that a man who surprises his mother, sister, daughter or wife in an unsavory sexual act with a man and kills her or him, or both, will be charged with a misdemeanor and are punishable with a maximum three-year prison sentence and/or a maximum fine of 3000 Kuwaiti dinars.
“The law specifically says that the man must catch the women in the act and that it was an element of surprise, he cannot plan it,” Al Mulla clarified.
Hussein explained that, “the reason we do not have many registered cases of ‘honour killings’ is because the accused admits to the killing and so the judge concludes that since there was intent and that the killing was not by surprise it is a murder not an honour killing.”
In a December 2019 ‘honour killing’ incident, a young woman was beaten to death. A year earlier, a young woman’s body was found in the desert with clear evidence of violence. In most cases, private investigations are done only to find that the killing was done by a male relative, usually justified as ‘honour killing’.
In most cases, the male admits to the killing “as he often thinks that this act will restore the family’s honour,” Huseein said.
Article 153 preludes Kuwait’s independence and was part of the French colonial legal system. A Kuwaiti civil society organization, Abolish 153, has been working on abolishing the article, which effectively gives men regulatory, judicial and executive power over their female kin in blatant disregard of the constitution, international agreements on human and women’s rights and even the Islamic Sharia.
One of the initiatives that group has been working on is stationing law enforcement in medical institutions that domestic violence victims visit to ensure their safety and protection.