Shift in 'honour' killings

When certain practices are rampant in a society, it requires a paradigm shift in public thinking to get them outlawed.

A Turkish court took a huge step in the direction of just such a shift when it handed out life sentences to five members of a family found guilty of instigating the honour killing of a 16-year-old Kurdish girl. Naile Erdas's brother, father, mother and two of her uncles went to prison for life, while another uncle was sentenced to 16 years for neglecting to report the slaying. Erdas's brother shot her in October 2006 after she was raped and got pregnant.

Mazlum Bagli, who researches honour killings at Turkey's Dicle University, called the court ruling "a first" in terms of its severity. The sentences send a strong message that such killings will not be tolerated. Hopefully, this ruling and future verdicts like it will resonate as a deterrent through patriarchal Third World environments where killing a female relative who is seen to have violated repressive cultural taboos about chastity is considered a duty to clear the family's name.

In 2006, 1,806 girls and women were slain in honour killings, according to the U. S. State Department, while another 5,375 committed suicide after being pressured by their families to do so.

According to the BBC, the average sentence handed down for an honour killing is six months. The Turkish sentence may be the first, but it is to be hoped that many more will follow as other courts emulate this precedent. It is the only way the scourge of honour killings will finally be eradicated.

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