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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Modern Face of Honor Killing: Factors, Legal Issues, and Policy Recommendations


Honor killing is a phenomenon practiced in at least thirty-one countries on six continents and leads to the murder of thousands of people annually. They come from various nations, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, or professions and all die at the hands of their family or community members after being accused of having compromised their morals. The truth of what these persons have or have not done does not matter. They have no chance to defend themselves, and their fate is not the culmination of a legal proceeding. It is decided by the people not the law. These victims vanish without any consequences for the killer as if nothing has ever happened. This study attempts to define the complexity of legal and cultural factors that allow for, or encourage the practice of honor killing, as well as to make policy recommendations on how to deter it. My thesis contends that gender discrimination and religious perceptions, conventionally accepted as explanations for honor killing, are not the only and most significant factors behind this phenomenon but rather, that poverty, political structure and insecurity, and lack of appreciation for human life play a big role in it. The examination of recent honor killings, history of gender dynamics, and religious prescriptions in a number of countries, where the practice is prevalent, supports this assertion. Each aspect listed is discussed in a segment of my research, followed by legal analysis of existing laws and policy recommendations.

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