Unless you’ve been exposed to it, honour-based violence can be quite a complicated issue to understand. Maybe you’ve read about the victims in the newspapers or seen something about it on TV, so you know a bit about what’s involved. But by its nature, honour-based violence is something that happens behind closed doors and isn’t openly spoken about. Here’s Cosmo’s guide to the facts – what it is, why it’s happening, and why something needs to be done to stop it.
So what exactly is honour–based violence?
Honour-based violence (HBV) is the name given to horrific acts of violence on women carried out by their own families in the name of protecting the family’s ‘honour’. For doing things most of us take for granted – like having a boyfriend your family doesn’t necessarily approve of, asking for a divorce or dressing in a Western style – some women are murdered, beaten, and subjected to acid attacks, all at the hands of their parents, siblings, and husbands.
That’s awful – why would their families do this?
It’s all to do with the idea of honour. Honour is connected to the women in a family – they’re told that it is their job to protect it. The only way a woman can protect it, though, is to do exactly what others expect of her, which means dressing in a certain way, only hanging out with the ‘right’ people and marrying the ‘right’ man – regardless of what the woman herself wants. If she veers at all from this strict path, she is said to have dishonoured her family and it is ‘honourable’ for them to kill her. In these families, death is often considered preferable to divorce.
While honour can bind families together, it can also be used as a tool to oppress women and keep them in line. Mothers are just as likely to perpetrate honour-based crimes if they have been brought up in this culture. Often, the people who carry out these terrible crimes show no remorse – this is because they genuinely believe what they have done is good and right.