Aug 02 2009

Honour Killings Are Hate Crimes Against Women

When it comes to “honour killings”, there should be no hesitation about tackling the root of the problem: medieval attitudes towards females. This phenomenon is essentially a recent cultural import to Canada by those who want the benefits of living in this country without adopting Western values. “Culture” or “religion” should be no defense when it encourages certain types of crimes.

Some would contend that there’s nothing to defend here. Letter-writer Abubakar N. Kasim makes the case that the killings of four females in the Shafia family, even if it were motivated by imported cultural values, ought to be treated by authorities as an “ordinary” murder investigation. He believes the case is being used to tarnish Islam and intimidate Muslims across Canada.

As well, he Stageleft blog suggests Canadian authorities looking to crack down on so-called “honour killings” implies guilt of cultural insensitivity or racism. In his view, honour killings are premeditated murder; why should they be treated differently than any other type of murder? The Public Safety Minister must be a bigot.

Before we get into refuting the ideas of Mr. Kasim and Stageleft, it’s worth noting that much of the news coverage of the Shafia killings omitted any reference to Islam or Muslims. Especially early on in the case, but continuing to today, articles mention the possibility of a cultural factor in reference to the practice of “honour killings” yet fail to clearly define just which culture it is that we’re talking about. The reader is left to guess based on the names of the alleged killers and their victims. A case of self-censorship by reporters? If so, why?

A few examples of this odd journalistic omission are presented below (but a quick search on Google will furnish many more, if you’re of a mind):

* Shafia family will plead not guilty in alleged ‘honour killing’: lawyer
* Oldest canal victim feared for her life: siblings
* ‘Honour killing’ alleged in four deaths

In any case, Mr. Kasim and Stageleft are wrong. There is precedent for treating “honour” crimes more harshly in Canada and it’s got nothing to do with cultural insensitivity – quite the opposite, actually. According to our criminal code:

The courts may define the motivations of hate, bias or prejudice as aggravating factors when sentencing an offender for other offences, such as assault, damage to property, threatening, or harassment. The result is usually a more severe punishment

The victims of “honour killings” and the domestic violence that doesn’t always rise to the level of murder are always women. That these killings are perpetrated exclusively by a definable cultural minority should not be used to protect the perpetrators. It just makes it easier to understand that these crimes are hate crimes, in the same way that lynchings of blacks by whites, firebombings of synagogues and bashing of homosexuals are (categorically, if not legally designated) hate crimes.

Taking action to protect women against honour killings with better use of existing tools of our justice system isn’t bigoted. It’s the least a Public Safety minister can do when it comes to dealing with an increasing and abhorrent crime in Canada. Canada’s multicultural society is not required to accept all cultural imports, particularly those insidious abusive types of behavior that come from from countries where women have fewer protections.

Hat tip: Excellent analysis by Werner Patels on the need to confront the phenomenon of honour killings and eliminate the red herring of Islamophobia.

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15 responses so far

15 Responses to “Honour Killings Are Hate Crimes Against Women”

  1. Robon 02 Aug 2009 at 12:01 pm

    thanks for an interesting article.

  2. balbulicanon 02 Aug 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Please explain why a sentence of life in prison without parole, (barring the current faint hope provision), the current maximum sentence for first degree murder (i.e., premeditated murder) is inadequate for “honour killings”. What additional penalties do you propose, and how precisely they will provide additional deterrence.

  3. jnarveyon 02 Aug 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Balbulican, your point is mostly academic and not really useful in the real world of crime and punishment.

    It’s very common for killers in Canada to plead guilty to a lesser offense. Very few murderers are ever found guilty of murder in the first degree. Honor killings defined as hate crimes would help judges determine more appropriate sentencing in these cases.

  4. balbulicanon 03 Aug 2009 at 4:08 am

    Given that our judicial system is meant to stand the test of time (and not simply respond to short term waves of fashionable fill-in-the-blank-phobia), I think a little discussion is order. Sorry if actually applying reason to the law strikes you as excessively “academic”.

    The current legal system permits wide latitude in sentencing. An interesting case in point was the recent case of the Dadsahni murder in Ottawa. The jury found, quite correctly, that the crown had NOT made its case against Dadshani, and that the legal “tests” that define first degree murder had not been passed: they found him guilty of manslaughter. However, a manslaughter verdict STILL allows the judge to impost a sentence of up to life imprisonment, and in this case the sentence was fifteen years.

    Honour killings are a horror. So is vendetta. So is infanticide. Or parricide. Or the beating to death of any terrified woman by her drunken lout of a husband. All are murder, all are illegal, and all are adequately prosecutable within the current legal code.

  5. jnarveyon 03 Aug 2009 at 9:44 am

    Balbulican, you’ve carefully ignored the main point of my post, in that I believe “honour killings” constitute hate crimes against women.

    If they are hate crimes, then that will affect sentencing. It’s that simple.

    If you don’t think they are, please respond to my specific points.

    And which phobia is it that you accuse me of having? I don’t have any, other than a fear of heights.

  6. balbulicanon 03 Aug 2009 at 9:51 am

    I’m afraid I don’t understand why you feel that distinction adds further protection to women or clarity to the law.

    Under the current laws, Honour Killings will be prosecuted as first degree murder. You have not explained how reclassifying a specific category of homicide as a “hate crime” will increase the level of deterrence: you simply state that it will.

    Your evidence for this assertion?

  7. jnarveyon 03 Aug 2009 at 10:06 am

    Balbulican, you seemed to have missed the essence of my previous response, so here it is again:

    “It’s very common for killers in Canada to plead guilty to a lesser offense. Very few murderers are ever found guilty of murder in the first degree. Honor killings defined as hate crimes would help judges determine more appropriate sentencing in these cases.”

    I have made no claims regarding deterrence. It’s a red herring. If you’re fuzzy on how deterrence fits into sentencing judgements, please consult a criminal lawyer and/or Subway sandwich maker to explain to you how that works.

    Cheers.

  8. balbulicanon 03 Aug 2009 at 11:16 am

    “I have made no claims regarding deterrence.”

    Ah. Well, you should be aware that someone pretending to be you said the following, above:

    “Taking action to protect women against honour killings with better deterrence isn’t bigoted.”

    Awful when those anonymous bloggers sneak into your site and pretend to be you, isn’t it? Maybe you should consult some Subway sandwich maker on basic site security.

    But listen… if that naught anonymous blogger posting about deterrence under your name DOES show up again, do me a favour and ask him/her the same question you’ve dodged (quite appropriately, of course, since it wasn’t you who asked it).

    (Smiles.)

  9. jnarveyon 03 Aug 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Balbulican, you’ve missed the entire point of my post. Yes, I did use the term, deterrence, where perhaps a better term would be “use of existing tools of our justice system” (although the context of the rest of the article should have made my point clear to you). You’ve caught me in a point of semantics. Congratulations. I shall make the correction.

    That was your third entry and you’ve STILL failed to respond to my points, instead attempting to distract readers with a straw man. Cheers.

  10. balbulicanon 03 Aug 2009 at 2:25 pm

    “Deterrence” as a synomym for “use of existing tools of our justice system”? Sorry: those terms are not even in the same ballpark.

    Since you’re simply tossing phrases around without meaning, I’ll concede your point: I really don’t know what you’re talking about. I fear you don’t either.

    Cheers!

  11. jnarveyon 03 Aug 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Balb: Fourth comment, still dodging the main point. Congratulations. Can we get a fifth? A sixth?

    I’m waiting.

  12. balbulicanon 03 Aug 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Please continue. I’m sure a commenter who actually understands what you’re trying to say will be along any minute now.

  13. jnarveyon 03 Aug 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I knew you had it in you. Dodge number six coming right up?

    Can’t wait.

  14. balbulicanon 03 Aug 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Sorry, J. I’m too old and too bored to play compulsive last-wordism in the absence of substance. Bye bye.

  15. jnarveyon 03 Aug 2009 at 7:16 pm

    And… done. That’s six. Congratulations, babblehead. Knew you couldn’t resist.

    And that’s… the last word! :-)

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