Honor Killings Aren’t Just An Eastern Tradition, But Also A Western Problem


When you hear the phrase ‘honor killings’ it sounds like something that is out of a fictional action-adventure ninja-type movie. Unfortunately, it is an every day reality in many parts of the world.

For those unfamiliar with it, “An honor killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family or community, usually for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate, or engaging in homosexual relations.” That is the Wikipedia definition.

Essentially, it is a family willing to kill their own rather than live in shame in public. The fact that this is even a thing is so horrifically sickening. And it’s not a recent thing either. Honor killings have been going on for many, many years in countries such as Pakistan and India. But thanks to a huge influx of migrants to countries like the UK, they are happening in our very backyards under the noses of our authorities.

According to the United Nations, there are over 5,000 cases of murder due to honor killings reported around the world each year. These murders often go unreported. Women’s rights organizations working in South Asia and the Middle East estimate that over 20,000 women are honor killed each year. Yet in a lot of these countries there is no legislation to prosecute criminals or protect victims.

The majority of honor killing victims and women and girls, naturally. The UK is now starting to crack down and create a lot of awareness about this issue in a bid to create laws that will put the murderers behind bars and allow more of these to be reported.


Cosmopolitan Magazine in the UK have teamed up with Karma Nirvana, an organization which has been trying to tackle honor crimes since 1993, to launch a nationwide campaign to force the UK government to step up the laws, and ask the media to broadcast more about honor killings in depth. The campaign is called ‘Britain’s Lost Women’.

“Honor-based crimes are particularly difficult to tackle. The abuse takes place at home, behind closed doors, and victims are terrified of coming forward – fearful that the abuse will worsen, or that they might even be killed such are these families’ obsession with honor,” says Cosmopolitan.

The team have started a Change.org petition urging UK Prime Minister to recognize a national day or remembrance for the victims who were sadly taken from this earth for the sake of keeping up appearances.

“Pavanpreet Ahmed was just seven-years-old when her father and grandmother arranged for her mum, Surjit, to be killed while she was on holiday. Why? Because her mum wanted a divorce. Another victim, Shafilea Ahmed, was killed in front of her other siblings by her own parents when she was just 17 – all because she had dishonored the family by wanting to wear ‘western’ style clothing and mix with white friends.”

“Girls who do not uphold the family’s ‘honor’ are often ‘dealt with’ by being forced into marriages, often to men they have never met, forced into a life they did not want for themselves.” These are just a few of the stories being shared by the campaign, giving people an insight into how serious this topic is.

The proposed remembrance day is July 14, as this was the birthday of Shafilea Ahmed. Shafilea was suffocated to death by her own parents and in front of her siblings in September 2003. This year, Shafilea would have turned 28. Today Pavanpreet Ahmed is an activist and is the chief spokesperson for the campaign with Cosmo UK and Karma Nirvana, having experienced first hand the affects of an honor killing.

“I think it’s a big problem in the UK that not a lot of people know about honor killings,” Pavanpreet said in an interview with Sky News in the UK recently. “A lot more awareness needs to be raised. It can be difficult to find help, so I think we need a day to not just remember the victims, but to let people know who are going through it that help is here for them.”


“Because of the nature of this crime – because it’s behind closed doors and victims are scared to speak out – it is massively under-reported, and a day like this would really encourage victims to come forward,” said Cosmo’s Fiona Cowood in the same interview.

And it is not just the media and victims getting involved, but filmmakers all the way in Hollywood. UK filmmaker and actress Julia Eringer, who is based in Los Angeles is currently shooting a film called ‘In Honor Of’ which is a fictional tale of a Caucasian American family who are tackling this issue. Julia said it was important to change the conversation and show it from a different point of view.

“I wanted to frame the story using a Western perspective so that the audience would relate to the family and be forced to experience the issue in a personal way, as opposed to separating them (and the problem) as part of ‘the others’.” she said.

Julia and her crew are also utilizing a crowd-funding site, Seed and Spark, which is focused on helping independent films get financed to finish this first-of-a-kind film.

Julia went on to say that it was in fact a news story in the UK from a few years ago which shocked her and made her want to do something about this issue with the resources she had: creativity.

“My script was inspired by a real story about a girl who was drowned by her family in the UK years ago. It struck me so heavily that I felt compelled to write about it. The film will be told from the perspective of the girl and endeavors to explore how it might feel to be turned-on by your family and be sentenced to death by them. The idea is that people will be impacted emotionally, and be awoken to the horror of this phenomenon that must stop.”

Executive producer Tracey Becker says the project drew her in one two levels: one as a producer, and two as a woman.

“It’s a heart-wrenching, disturbing, and unbelievable story about one woman’s struggle to be true to herself and her heart. When you add in the conflict between a woman’s familial love and bonds, versus her romantic bonds, it is at once bizarre and familiar. I think it’s an important story to tell,” she said.

Take a look at the video of ‘In Honor Of’ and why the cast and crew want to be part of such an important film:

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