Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Honor Killing?

Chaudhry Rashid, a Pakistani resident of Jonesboro, GA, stands accused of killing his daughter, Sandeela Kanwal, because of her desire to end her arranged marriage. reported that police discovered Ms. Kanwal dead in an upstairs bedroom of her father's home when responding to a call Rashid's wife made after she heard screaming coming from upstairs.

Authorities arrived at the home around 2 a.m., shortly after Rashid's wife called police. She reported that she had been awakened by screaming but couldn't understand the language, the report said. She said she was afraid and left the house to call police.

Police found a "distraught and possibly mournful" Rashid sitting behind a vehicle in the driveway.

"My daughter is dead," he told police.

When asked how she died, police said Rashid did not answer.

"He just dropped his head," the report states.

Clayton County Police spokesman Tim Owens said, "Apparently she and the father had argued over the marriage and the fact that it was arranged, and at some point during the altercation he did end up killing his daughter."

The article goes on to define "honor killings" - the slaying by family members of a woman or girl thought to be bringing them shame - and cite the United Nation Population Fund's estimation that approximately 5,000 women and girls are killed in this way each year. CNN is not the only news outlet to choose this angle as their focus, and while the concept is important, the broader picture is covered up by relegating problems of widespread violence against women to the status of a cultural misunderstanding.

Samhita of Feministing writes,
Sounds so simple right? He killed her because his "culture" made him. Not because he might be mentally ill or pathological. There is no denying that in basically every culture there is pressure put on women to act a certain way and especially with regard to marriage or the ownership of her sexuality. But the way that "honor" killing is discussed in the media you would think it is some normal cultural phenomena, when it is not. It is a sign of illness, culture gone awry and patriarchy at its most exaggerated.
Even the expert CNN consulted in that same article criticizes this tendency to exoticize incidents of domestic violence.

Ajay Nair, associate dean of multicultural affairs at Columbia University, said many immigrant families struggle over cultural and generational gaps, but that most South Asian communities enjoy "wonderful" relationships within their families.

"My immediate reaction was that this is an anomaly in the South Asian community," Nair said Tuesday. "This isn't a rampant problem within South Asian communities. What is a problem, I think, is domestic violence, and that cuts across all communities."

Make no mistake, honor killings are a serious problem and they deserve attention. However, they are only one piece of the puzzle, and to introduce them without context is to minimize the root of the problem - that women are so often seen as property to be passed on from one man to the next, who will act as their gatekeepers.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

"God will watch over me" Says honor-killer.