15 years for 'honour' killing

A Jordanian man has been sentenced to 15 years in jail with hard labour for killing his sister “to cleanse his family's honour”. By Jordanian standards, the sentence is unusually tough – sentences in some previous cases have been as little as a few months.

According to a court official quoted in the Jordan Times, the 21-year-old man stabbed his married 18-year-old sister 26 times after her husband accused her of seeing other men.

She was taken into protective custody but released after her father signed a JD5,000 ($7,000) guarantee that he would not harm her. Next day, she was killed by her brother.

The relatively long sentence reflects the court’s view that the murder was premeditated but is probably also a sign of the authorities’ efforts to crack down on so-called “honour” crimes.

However, the battle against "honour" crimes continues to meet resistance from traditionalist and religious elements in Jordanian society. On Sunday, The National reported that moves to impose a minimum five-year sentence for “honour” killings appear to be blocked in parliament. Similar moves have previously beenknocked back on the grounds that they would “encourage vice and destroy social values”.

In August, a special tribunal was set up in to handle “honour” crimes – which may help – though police are often reluctant to investigate them seriously.

There is also growing recognition that progress in this area will depend on changing people’s attitudes. The King Hussein Foundation has established a two-year project funded by the European Commission that seeks to change public perception of “honour” crimes. It includes an Arabic-language website,mathlouma.com (Arabic for “wronged woman”), with the slogan: “There is no honour in honour crimes”.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 13 October 2009.