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The "Honour" in Honour Killing

'On July 20, 2008, a body was spotted in Khajeri village and preliminary investigation revealed that she was Promila, who was five months pregnant then. The girl was brutally put to death by her very own father Jaswant and brother Sunil. Both sanitation workers, the accused apparently first strangulated Promila and then bludgeoned her with a stone. To mislead investigators, they poured acid on the deceased's face and tore her clothes to indicate she was rape and then killed. However, medical reports nailed their lie and suggested she wasn't raped. Its importance could not be overemphasized. Advocate TS Sudan, the president of Lawyers for Human Rights International, an NGO, said, 'Other courts should also follow the same procedure so that the menace of honour killing is curbed.'

Honour killing. Killing to avenge the female sex or more to placate the injured pride of the family? Though this case occurred years ago, it struck a chord with me and I still feell it till now.

Growing up, we were threatened warned against letting a boy “touch” us. To be honest, I was so naive that I believed that if a boy “touched” me – and by that I mean to actually have physical contact with me in the most innocent way imaginable – that I would become pregnant. Or more aptly “carry belle”. So it’s no surprise that if a young and unmarried young girl from a typical Nigerian home were to arrive with a bun in the oven, good things were not about to happen.

Teenage pregnancy is not a laughing matter, but to a lot of people, that’s because the girl in question isn’t married or about to.

The shame it brings to the family...more so of the girl in question comes from a very religious home. i know friends whose churches have turned them away and castigated them for being unwed and very pregnant. And I know some churches who have welcomed these same people with open arms and give them support and much needed love. I’ve come to realise that it is all about the people, not the institutions. But I’m from a Christian home with Christian friends, so that’s different.

Promila, the victim of her family’s honour killing is very unfortunate. Yes, she did bring what the society considered the greatest shame possible by a female child – shw was a victim of society’s norms. But to kill her so violently? To strangled her? To bludgeon her with a stone? And disfigured by acid?

This makes me wonder...was she loved? Had her father and brother not been caught, would they have gone to bed every night, smiling in satisfaction that they had done the right thing?

Granted, a lot of people will say that I have no right to question the actions perpetrated by individuals in the name of their religion. But as a knowledge seeker and proponent of tolerance in our societies, I want to understand why violence acted on women is accepted in the name of a religion. Or is it?

The Islamic feminist Nasreen Amina stated in an interview that:
"We believe the current interpretations of Quran have been twisted in behalf of the maintenance of Patriarchy system and not in the name of Islamic model of life.
She spoke in relation to Islam, but this rings through in other religions also, though I must say this is not based on my religious beliefs, but on my experience living in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. Sometimes it seems that one's interpretation of a particular Law concerning religion is different that another’s interpretation and that it all boils down to personal opinion. Personally, I believe you're entitled to your opinions, so my opinion is that one should not impose their opinions on people and expect them to sit and swallow the medicine like good little children. Just saying...

Some are shockingly misogynistic and do not see any way that a woman’s contribution could extend beyond bearing children and being a wife (or a glorified housekeeper. depends on the view). Whereas some are, heart warningly sympathetic and supportive of women. Applauding their successes and never undermining them for their femininity.

What’s your take on killing your own sibling or daughter to ‘restore’ the family honour, but really, to go that far? That’s another term for killing the girl instead of punishing those who wronged her. And where was the father of her unborn child during all of this? Probably denied the poor girl the moment she informed him of his impending parenthood.
I know people who would love to come up against me on what honour killing stands for. Some even say that Promila’s dad and brother were doing her a favour. Is taking the life of a young girl so brutally a favour to her? Is depriving her of a decision that would change her life in such a cruel way the right thing to do?

There is no honour in honour killing. Just a mangled dead body in the streets and a bad taste in my mouth.

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