Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2009


In the real world of the Twenty-first Century, deep biases against women are prevalent in much of Muslim society. Although there is no explicit approval of honor killing in Islamic law (Sharia), its culture remains fundamentally patriarchal. As unfathomable as it is to Western minds, "honor killing" is a facet of traditional patriarchy, and its condonation can be traced largely to ancient tribal practices. Justifications for it can be found in the codes of Hammurabi and in the family law of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, honor killings in the Twenty-first Century are not isolated incidents, nor can they be regarded as mere relics of a primitive past. Indeed, the practice continues unabated to this day. If we are to accept the fact that honor killings violate international law and should be considered repugnant to modern civilization, what meaningful and effective responses can be provided by Western democracies? A number of social, economic and political issues complicate matters and limit the range of options. This Article explores honor killings from historical, cultural, religious, and legal perspectives; examines responses to date from the international community; and suggests remedies that might be more effective.



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