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Don’t Separate ‘Honour Crimes’ From Other Violence Against Women

Most would agree that with a women murdered every six days in Canada, we need to address gendered violence in all its forms. This cannot be done, tempting and reassuring as it might be, by simplistically attributing the problem to one religious group to the exclusion of others.

In the Clarion Project’s latest documentary titled Honour Diaries, now making its way around North America, the producers seem bent on doing just that. The documentary claims to expose the paralyzing political correctness that prevents us from addressing the human rights disaster that is honour-based violence. There is no doubt that violence against women motivated by the preservation of family honour continues to be a problem in many parts of the world, including here in Canada. Labeling it as an exclusively Muslim problem, however, is not only inaccurate but also threatens to overlook the systemic problems at the root of all gendered violence. Doing so further risks promoting bigotry that will alienate those best placed to address the problem.

In fact, organizations like the Canadian Council of Muslim Women refuse to even use the term “honour killing” preferring the term “femicide” instead. It is after all murder in all cases. In their view, the term honour needlessly separates women and girls into groups based on race, culture and religion. The term has ballooned to include a large swathe of activities — everything from murder of women with foreign sounding names, forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, to selective abortion. It is hard to find anything in common except that these activities are somehow associated with people from “non-Western” traditions.

Essentially, honour crimes describe crimes that are not all that different from other violence against women. They are crimes with power and control at their core. They are a violent denial of the right of women to choose for themselves how to live their lives.


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