A tradition that dates back to the Babylonian
It is a tradition that is particularly widespread in the patriarchal societies of the Middle East, in Pakistan, Turkey, Chad and certain parts of Latin America. The first honour killings to take place within the Arab world date back to the pre-Islamic era. Honour killings are practiced in all socio-cultural groups. They are not written in any laws, nor are they linked to religion as people of different faiths take part in them.
This cruel practice permits a family member to murder a girl or a young woman suspected of breaching the code of family honour with her behaviour. The criteria of this code vary across communities. It is true, however, that any act that casts doubt on a girl’s virginity (sexual intercourse with consent, rape, incest, rumours), being seen in male company, wearing clothing deemed indecent, returning home late at night, talking on the telephone with a male friend may arouse suspicion within the family and lead to an honour killing. The family believes its honour lies in the girl’s physical integrity and that if that honour is breached, or is thought to have been breached, the alleged culprit must be killed. The father, a brother, male cousin or a different person appointed by the family takes it upon himself to avenge the honour. The person is often a minor for minors only risk a light sentence.
Different methods are used to kill these young girls. In most cases they are poisoned, shot, strangled, stabbed, their throats slit, or they are covered in petrol and burned alive. Once the crime has been committed, the murderer is viewed by his family as a hero. He will often turn himself into the police, who do very little.
Despite the fact that victims are usually innocent (according to Jordan's National Institute of Forensic Medicine, autopsies reveal that 80% of murdered young girls were still virgins), the number of killings is rising. Murderers face prison sentences lasting between six months and two years, and they are often released after a few months. It is frequent for them not to be convicted at all, as society acknowledges that "they had no choice"… Local laws on this issue are very relaxed.