I have read from a few sources recently about a phenomenon called "honor killings" that occurs throughout the world to varying degrees in the name of traditional values often influenced by Islam and upholding family honor. The victims are usually women or girls, though sometimes men, who have committed acts believed to have stained the image of their family. In reality, the accused are behaving in ways that are totally in line with modern free society values. They have boyfriends, they chat online using Facebook, they refuse to veil their faces, they reject an arranged marriage, or object to abuse by their husbands. In very extreme cases (though all honor killings are pretty extreme) women pay with their life for being raped, a traumatic, non-consensual act in which they had no choice. I guess the mentality is for the killers that if the goods are damaged the must be discarded. The only problem is we're talking about people's lives. In the meantime, other simple non-violent conflict resolution strategies are forgone in favor of force. The cases that get the most attention are obviously the killings, but it makes me think about all the people who have been abused in the name of honor, but did not lose their lives. Instead they have to live with the shame (and maybe some scars) as well as face their family and community in an environment of disapproval.
These are examples of how closed minded belief systems intertwined with traditional values come into serious conflict with the modern globalized world. It is almost as if those responsible for the honor killings think they are living in another time, a time before the well established norms of human rights. Though some parts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may be disputed even now, murder seems to be one act most people can agree violates human right. Leaders of the communities in which these killings are taking place need to clearly take a stand against these horrible acts of violence by denouncing them as dishonorable. I wonder how many people really find them honorable in the first place? Anyway, the legal codes throughout the world need to be, reassessed to ensure that people can live responsibly while respecting other people, their culture and the cultures around them. It is really quite disturbing to see how the laws in some of the countries where honor killings occur most often (particularly Pakistan and Jordan) are actually structured in such a way so that punishing the killers is quite difficult or sentences are reduced compared to other violent crimes. Its seems like these governments would actually rather ignore the killings than take any action. An interesting twist is that through new technologies like mobile phones that can record video, some of these horrific killings are finally being shown to national and international audiences. Hopefully that exposure will bring pressure to reform. The honor codes of the world need urgently to be updated to maintain core values that respect human rights and emphasize acts that bring honor to the family name.
Along those lines, here is list (in no particular order) of some other ways to maintain or gain honor. This is a collection of honorable achievements that I think most people can agree on. Let these acts replace "honor killings" in the 21st century as the concepts that are associated with honor. Keep in mind these are targets to shoot for. Those that fail to reach the targets are not dishonorable, they just have room for improvement. That being said almost everyone should be able to achieve at least a couple of the honors regardless of financial or social constraints, but some are far more difficult.
-Great skill in a craft or trade
-Self sacrifice for others
-A cohesive family unit
-A loving relationship
-Performing heroic acts
-Sustainable use of environmental resources
-Great athletic achievement
-Creation of an innovative tool or concept
-Completion of Secondary education and beyond
-Publication of art or literature
-Expertise in an academic area
-Ability to sexually satisfy your significant other
The list, by the way, is not exhausted here. I'm sure you have a few more ideas.
Here is a video CNN story about an honor killing that occurred in London a few years ago and the debate surrounding the issue.
Another CNN video featuring disturbing footage captured using new communication technology.