When I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver

honour killings

The quotation above is often used in exasperation at the absurdity of what is acceptable in the name of ‘culture’. The fact that its origin comes from a Nazi playwright who was an SS officer might give us pause. But we have no reason to pardon the inhuman acts carried out in the name of cultural difference.

In the news today is the senseless killing of a woman. Stoned to death by her relatives, Farzana Bibi had incurred their wrath by marrying a man against the wishes of her family.

To say that her action was ‘culturally unacceptable’ in her part of Pakistan, does nothing to mitigate her family’s collective murder of Farzana with bricks and sticks outside the courthouse where kidnapping charges against her husband were to be heard. Any shame should be felt by the perpetrators of her brutal murder, but somehow I doubt any of those who took her life regret doing so.

So called ‘honour killings’ are carried out in modern cities all around the world where families decide who the bride will marry. Going against the family’s wishes might be expected to cause embarrassment, a loss of face and even offend their sense of honour, but how does that compare with murder?

Having murdered Farzana Bibi, does her family think that honour has been restored? Preventing her union with the man of her choice by taking her life is beyond my understanding of what is ‘culturally acceptable’.

Women around the world are the main victims of such atrocities. Genital mutilation, sex slavery, wife beating, and ‘honour killing’ are the most shocking attacks on women, but basic human rights such as the right to education are also denied to young women in the name of cultural difference. Law and society should continue the fight to protect men and women from flagrant breaches of human rights.

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