The Muslim religion is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, other than Christianity; according to Pew Research, in 2017 there were about 3.45 million Muslims in the U.S (Mohamed 2018). Some beliefs and practices this religion engage in are polygamy, fasting, wearing hijabs for women, and believing in one God, or “Allah”. Celibacy, monasticism, alcoholic drinks, pork, and abortions are forbidden in this culture. There are three beliefs that are invading the free will and rights of those who follow this religion; to forbid celibacy, monasticism, and abortions are a violation of human rights. However, many issues are presented among this specific population, especially in middle eastern countries.
Some other problems among the Muslim population are discrimination, hate crimes, inequal marital rights for women, domestic violence, and lastly, honor killings. Although, all the problems mentioned are equally important, this paper will solely focus on honor killings and the affect it has on Muslim women in middle eastern countries. According to Gharib, ‘An estimated of 5,000 honor killings are committed every year, mostly in Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities’ (p.1). Honor killing classifies as a global social problem because it violates human rights, normalizes violence and killings, and rape upon women. This essay will be discussing the causes and cultural beliefs of honor killing, how it is relevant in social welfare theories and policies, cultural diversity, and the issues that it presents economically, socially, and environmentally.
Honor Killing: Causes, Values, and Beliefs
Honor killing is defined as “one that involves killing a female family member by her own family members and friends to avenge shame brought by infidelity or other culturally unacceptable behaviors” (Dorjee, Baig, & Ting-Toomey, 2013, p.3.). Honor killing is not a new problem, in fact it originated in ancient desert times where a woman was considered the repository for her family’s honor (Pope, 2012, para. 2).
Specifically, the men of the family have the power over the action of honor killing. Most of the time that man is the father, uncle, or the brother of the woman. Honor killing takes place in areas of Israel, throughout the Middle East in Egypt, Syria, and Jordan (Dorjee et al, 2013). Causes of honor killings are due to perceived dishonor seen by family members, loved ones, friends, or anyone in the Muslim community. According to Nayak (2013), perceived dishonor is normally wanting out of an arranged marriage or choosing to marry by own choice, using dress codes unacceptable to the family, and engaging in sexual acts with anyone that is not the husband of the woman. Values and beliefs that define these killings as a social problem is women’s rights and basic human rights.
Diversity, Social, Economic, and Environmental Issues
There are many different religions and cultural norms around the world. Due to diverse cultural beliefs and values, states and countries have different political and economic systems with their own laws and regulations. In the U.S there is a constitutionally protected separation between church and state. In places like Iran and Israel, there is an official state religion, with state-supported laws (Al-Krenawi, 2011). In Middle Eastern governments the state is practically fostering violence against women.
The government often implements legislation following cultural practices, which can lead to honor crimes when the cultural practices are not followed. These crimes are often justified and swept under the rug because if a woman disrespects the cultural values, she is punished for it at the hands of a man. Honor killings and actions in this cultural show human rights violations because women are forced to experience cruel and severe punishment. Human rights violations are the main social issue in Middle Eastern countries. In these countries, the women are inferior to men. Discrimination against women is common and women are expected to be dependent on the men. Muslim women are forced to marry at an early age without a say so to whom they would like to marry.
The women are practically prisoners to man, they have no freedom and their right to live can be taken if they are not following their cultural beliefs. The male figures are in control of the women in this cultural and the women rely on them in all aspects. The cultural roots are imperative to these women because they do not have any other way to live. If a woman decides not to follow the cultural norms they are punished, subject to death, and ostracized by their own family and the whole community. Therefore, many women are forced to deal with discrimination, inferiority, and all types of abuse from their community and men.
Economically, the women have no say so or authority over their life because they are incapable of supporting themselves financially. They have little to no education because they have no free access to education. This leads them with no job and economically inept of supporting their livelihood. Therefore, they have no choice but to be economically dependent to man. In honor crime practice communities, the women are dependent on sympathy of men. Men fulfill the women’s necessities such as food, clothing, and health. Without a man, a woman cannot fulfill their own basic needs, this makes the women incompetent in their communities. Middle Eastern environments are strictly male dominated.
The act of honor crimes makes domestic violence tolerant and punishment is greatly reduced compared to domestic violence crimes in the U.S. Since domestic violence is considered a cultural norm in these communities, it leaves women feeling afraid to speak on their domestic violence situations because they know there will not be consequences to the perpetrator (Perry, 2017). Women in these communities do not have anywhere to go where they can feel safe; there is no shelter homes sponsored by the government because the government does not want to openly oppose this widely approved cultural practice of honor killings (Honor killings, n.d). In Middle Eastern environments, women are subject to mistreatment and humiliation. The prohibition of domestic violence under the government laws make the women feel unsafe and unsecure in their own environment.
Social Welfare Theories, Ideologies, and Polices Relevant
Women of Muslim cultures are realizing that this ‘cultural’ norm is not morally right. Some victims of honor crimes and loved ones of the victims are starting to speak about the deaths or violence brought upon their loved ones. More people are speaking out about their experiences and standing up for what they believe is morally right. The social welfare system ideologies/theories that are relevant in honor killings are social democracy, liberal individualism, systems theory, and natural rights (Spicker, 2017).
In Middle Eastern cultures social democracy is not present for women because there are not any social interventions preventing these issues that are being present in these cultures. Women in these cultures are not given the right of liberal individualism, they do not have freedom by any means. Women in Muslim cultures are not seen as individuals, rather a prize or possession of man. Women are not independent or self-reliant, by nature they are supposed to be dependent to their husband and told to cater to his wants and desires rather than their own. Systems theory is relevant to this issue because their cultural beliefs influence their behavior. A person’s parents, economic class, home environment and other factors all influence how a person thinks and acts (Engard, 2017).
In this case, Middle Eastern culture influences the women in their country to act weak, dependent, be a stereotypical house-wife and submissive to man. They are economically incompetent and left no choice but to act how they are told or be punished for not doing so. Natural rights are relevant in this case because women of these cultures have none; women are sold into marriage and have no say so to whom she spends the rest of her life with. The right to choose a life partner is a fundamental natural right but that does not exist for women in these cultures. (Sharma, 2016).
Honor killing is addressed in present welfare policies and programs like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This law “requires states to grant women equally before the law, including equal legal capacity and the ability to exercise that capacity in civil matters” (Sources of International, n.d). The United Nations General Assembly and the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly have put forth resolutions to eliminate and prevent honor crimes, conduct awareness of honor killing, set up a helpline, and support non-governmental organizations working on honor crimes in immigrant communities (Sources of International, n.d). Also, there are advocacy campaigns that are against honor killing. Humanity Healing International has collaborated with Hope Development Organization to implement an advocacy campaign to equip women with empowerment (Advocacy against Honor, n.d).
Although present social welfare policies and programs address this problem, it is not adequately addressed globally. Personally, I think as social workers we must try to change this and advocate for international women that do not have a voice. Any violation of human rights should not be overlooked in any country. Regarding honor crimes, social workers must strive to become more knowledgeable about Muslim cultural practices, we must create trust, cultural understanding, and attentiveness to our clients (Al-Krenawi, 2011, p. 26).
Honor crimes are still being present in Middle Eastern countries and is still an issue socially, economically, and environmentally. In some countries honor crimes are being prosecuted and the person who is guilty is imprisoned for a maximum of a year sentence. More needs to be done about these crimes and this global issue. Until this issue is changed, as a social worker we must respect our client’s decisions and cultural beliefs and attentively help them with their situations as best as we can to ensure their safety and well-being.