The Case of Gul Meena: Honor Killings
By Jessica Greene. & Jessica S., Wheelock College Students
This article originally appeared in a newsletter created by students in the “Women and Globalization” course at Wheelock College last spring. This newsletter highlights some of the most critical issues affecting women and girls globally. These issues affect us all, regardless of gender or location. We all have a role in improving these issues, beginning with our own awareness.
Gul Meena, a young girl from Pakistan, was married off to a sixty-year- old man at the age of twelve. She was beaten every day by her husband and when she tried to find solace in her family they beat her for complaining. They told her that her husband’s house is where she belonged now. After several failed attempts at suicide and a five-year abusive marriage she decided to run away to Afghanistan with her boyfriend. A couple of days after her departure Gul’s brother found her and her boyfriend in Afghanistan. He hacked her boyfriend to death and left her to die on her bed with fifteen axe marks. Doctors were able to save her life that was hanging on a thin thread as she laid there in a pool of her own blood with part of her brain hanging out of her skull. Now at seventeen years old she lives in an Afghan shelter in fear of what her future holds as international forces plan to pull the funding for these shelters next year. This predicament occurs worldwide against young girls like Gul Meena. However, not every girl is lucky enough to survive such a traumatic event.
What is an honor killing?
An honor killing is the killing of a relative, especially a girl or woman, who is perceived to have brought dishonor to the family.
Q. How many cases occur internationally per year and where?
Honor killings have been reported on six continents and thirty-one countries including the US and UK. There are 5,000 honor killings that occur internationally per year, 1,000 in India, 1,000 in Pakistan and 12 in the UK. The numbers that are presented here are severely underestimated due to the fact that not all are reported and there is no way of keeping track. Also in many of these countries honor killings are covered up as suicides or accidents.
Q. Are honor killings related to religion?
Honor killings are often misconceived to have derived from religious beliefs because they occur mostly in fundamentalist Muslim and Christian societies. However, no religion supports honor killings. Honor killings stem from ingrained cultural beliefs in patrilineal societies (where lineage is passed through men only). Men are deemed responsible for their families’ behavior and have control and power over women and their bodies. Therefore, if she fails to conform to societal norms and brings dishonor to her family the men in her family decide chose what is to become of her.
Q. Who is affected by honor killings and why do honor killings happen?
Women and young girls are usually the targets of honor killings. Honor killings usually happen because the “female” supposedly did something to bring dishonor to her family. She is usually accused of flirting, being unfaithful, is raped, or refuses an arranged marriage.
Q. Why are women vulnerable in this situation?
Women are vulnerable because in many societies they have No say and No rights! According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) we have the right to life, liberty, security of person, movement, expression, work, family, private life, education, marry and found a family, (highest standard of) health, and non-discrimination, women are still being denied these human rights. One of the most important human rightsin this case is freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. In most third world countries, women do what their husband, father, brother, uncle or any male figure tells them to do. If they are disobedient they will be punished!
Q. Why is this a problem?
Honor killings are a major problem and still happen today. There are many innocent young girls being killed by family members for choosing to live freely instead of following cultural traditions.
Can we resolve this problem?
The only way to solve this problem is for the global community and individual cultures to view women as valued community and family members. Families that participate in honor killings would have to change their mentality and convince each other that this killing our own family is not right. They need to want to change. The global community can help by making people aware of this problem that is still happening all around the world. There are organizations such as Honour-Based Violence Awareness (HBVA) and Amnesty International that are trying to aware our world about Violence towards women, which includes honor killings.
Jessica Greene is a junior at Wheelock College majoring in Social work. Jessica Semexant is a Junior at Wheelock College double-majoring in Juvenile Justice and Advocacy and Counseling Psychology.
Frank, M. (02, 2011 26). The rise of honor killings in america. Retrieved from http://www.marshallfrank.com/articles/2011/02/the-rise-of-honor-killings-in-america/
Islamabad, A. (03, 2012 22). Nearly 1,000 pakistani women ‘killed for honor’. Retrieved from http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/03/22/202385.html
Honour based violence awareness network. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://hbv-awareness.com/faq/
Lawson, H. (04, 2013 05). ‘i wish i had died': Girl struck 15 times with an axe by her brother in attempted ‘honour killing’. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2304322/Gul-Meena-struck-15-times-axe-BROTHER-honour-killing-attempt-wishes-died-day.html