Another young girl was brutally murdered by her family members this week; this time, she was marrying the man she loved. She was stoned to death outside Lahore, the Capital City of the Pakistani Province of Punjab. The killers included her father, Mohammad Azeem, her brothers, her former fiancé and other relatives – 20-in-all. They decided to stone the woman once their original plan to kidnap her failed. She died in the hospital from injuries sustained to her head.

“Honor” killings are the homicide of a member of a family or social group (including homosexuals) due to the perpetrator’s belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family or community. Statistics of the number of honor killings  that have occurred are startling.

Traditionally, where woman are concerned, the issue has been one of “reproductive” power; they want to “make sure” their children’s offspring owns up to the family’s expectations. Homosexuals cannot possibly biologically enhance this goal, so they are occasionally singled-out for beatings and other various forms of assault including murder. One such case involved Ahmet Yildiz (26), a resident of Istanbul, Turkey. He was shot five times by his father who had traveled 600 miles to ambush him in 2008. Yaldiz was a straight “A” gay student studying physics. His father had previously warned him to see a doctor who could cure him of his homosexuality.

The practice of killing family members who are even “suspected” of shaming the family, is not isolated to the middle-east- it occurs throughout the world. Ogad Singh was beheaded by her father in 2012; he paraded her head through the village; a young Saudi Arabian daughter was killed by her father after he caught her on Facebook. One brother, who strangled his sister with a computer cord, after he incorrectly suspected her of not being a virgin, said after the act, “It is better to have one family member dead than tarnish the whole family. He likened his act to removing one “rotten apple” from an otherwise healthy bunch.  He is serving a 6-month jail term for his acts. Similar acts have occurred in the Netherlands, Canada, the United States, England, and many other countries. While such practices are horrific, they are based upon cultural roots as opposed to religious doctrine and governments are starting to mete out harsh punishments. In 2010, a court in Delhi, India gave five people the death penalty for the “Honor Killing” of a couple in 2002. The defendants included a brother and cousins. In a particularly brutal killing, a Jerusalem District Court sentenced an East Jerusalem woman to 15 years in prison for her role in the “honor killing” of two of her daughters and the attempted murder of the third. In response to her lawyer’s plea for understanding based upon cultural belief, the short stated: To thwart and eradicate such shocking acts that harm defenseless women on the grounds of desecration of family honor” [the sentence was appropriate].

Throughout the United States, courts do not recognize “honor killings” as any type of defense to murder. In such cases, insanity or diminished capacity defenses may play a role. In those cases where mothers kill their children, “honor killing” is not a factor. Instead, the focus is on various psychiatric disorders.

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