Jordan Teens Think Honor Killings Justified, Study Says

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A study conducted by researchers of Cambridge University's Institute of Criminology found that almost half of teenage boys and one in five girls interviewed in the capital, Amman, believe that killing a daughter, sister or wife who has "dishonored" or shamed the family is justified.

Honor crimes can include physical assaults, rape, acid attacks and disfigurement, as well as murder for a crime as small as kissing a boy.

A statement released by the university said that researchers surveyed over 850 students, and found that attitudes in support of honor killing are far more likely in adolescent boys with low education backgrounds.

The researchers said the study is the first of its kind to gauge attitudes about honor killings in the region.

According to the study the main factors behind these crimes include patriarchal and traditional worldviews, emphasis placed on female virtue and a more general belief that violence against others is morally justified.

"We noted substantial minorities of girls, well-educated and even irreligious teenagers who consider honor killing morally right, suggesting a persisting society-wide support for the tradition," said Professor Manuel Eisner, who led the study with graduate student Lana Ghuneim.

In all, 33.4% of all respondents either "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with situations that depict honor killings.

Boys were more than twice as likely to support honor killings; 46.1 percent of boys and 22.1 percent of girls agreed with at least two honor killing situations in the questionnaire.  Sixty one percent of teenagers from the lowest level of educational background showed supportive attitudes towards “honor killing”, as opposed to only 21.1 percent where at least one family member has a university degree, the study said.

"We would expect that in the more rural and traditional parts of Jordan, support for honor killings would be even higher," said Professor Eisner.

Murder is punishable by death in Jordan, but for honor killings, courts can commute or reduce sentences, particularly if the victim’s family asks for leniency.

While stricter legislation has been introduced despite conservative fears, cultural support for violence against women who are seen as breaking norms has remained widespread.

Jordan's Queen Rania champions women's issues in the kingdom, and has long campaigned against honor killings.

Between 15 and 20 women die in so-called “honor” murders each year in the Arab kingdom, although the numbers are believed to be much higher since most honor killing crimes go unreported.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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