Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Harsh Truth About Honor Killings

It's the Money, Stupid

The honor killing noted by Michelle Malkin is interesting for several reasons, one of which is not in its barbarity nor that it was claimed as "honor", but in fact, the lengths to which it was carried.

Nazir Ahmed appears calm and unrepentant as he recounts how he slit the throats of his three young daughters and their 25-year old stepsister to salvage his family's "honor" — a crime that shocked Pakistan.

The 40-year old laborer, speaking to The Associated Press in police detention as he was being shifted to prison, confessed to just one regret — that he didn't murder the stepsister's alleged lover too.

He killed not only the original "sinner", but he killed her younger sisters as well, ostensibly to prevent them from committing the same "crime". However, the true motive is buried far down in the story and is more often than not the reason why such murders are carried out:

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that in more than half of such cases that make it to court, most end with cash settlements paid by relatives to the victims' families, although under a law passed last year, the minimum penalty is 10 years, the maximum death by hanging.[snip]

Despite Ahmed's contention that Muqadas had committed adultery — a claim made by her husband — the rights commission reported that according to local people, Muqadas had fled her husband because he had abused her and forced her to work in a brick-making factory.

Let me explain a few things that you might not be familiar with. When a girl marries, her husband must pay a bride price or dowry to the family who must also provide a small cash settlement, houshold goods and possibly some farm animals. Should the marriage go south, usually and largely blamed on the woman, then the bride's family must give back the bride price and will not receive back in return any of the goods that were provided. Further, the woman or girl will be wholely unmarriagable again, unless the family can convince some poor guy to accept her with an even larger dowry from them and a much smaller bride price from the groom (which no family in their right mind is going to allow their son to marry any such woman without this payment no matter how much the son may want to do so for purposes other than the money). Finally, lacking marital prospects, the woman now becomes a drain on the resources of the family.

However, if they charge her as an adultress and kill her, there is no return of the bride price, but possibly a small compensation to the other family (much cheaper) for the loss of a pair of hands and a baby maker in the family. The other compensation that the article speaks of is for the male "adulterer" whoever that is (if he exists at all) who may be killed and is worth quite a bit more money than the woman. so, despite the father's "lament" not having killed the "lover", he is most likely full of crap since it was cheaper to simply kill his daughter.

Now, the question why, if not honor, that he killed his other daughters. Since the sister has "brought shame" on the house, these daughters are going to be much more difficult to marry off and he certainly has no desire to have them around forever. To marry them off, he is going to have to provide additional incentives and possibly take less bride price for each of them. On top of that, he has a young son (less than a year old) who, when he is old enough, will choose a bride and will need to have money to pay for his bride and make an advantageous marriage when he grows up. By the time his son would have been old enough to marry, its very likely that the family would have been beggared or forced to borrow money from their relatives in order to provide him with a suitable bride.

Basically, this is not about pretty sentiments of "honor" or even women as things in extension to men's honor, but it is about women being things or commodities, much as fuedal Europe once saw a woman's virginity as a commodity to barter for wealth and power (it wasn't paticularly about honor back then either).

This man is worse than a serial killer because he has made a cold blooded financial choice knowing that he will spend little time in prison, will pay little in the way of a fine, will most likely have his herds or farm cared for by other family members while he spends what little time he has in prison and will come out, in all actuallity, in a far improved financial condition.

It's not about "honor", it's the money, stupid.

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