What makes an “honour killing” an honour killing? When the people involved are Muslim? Sikh? Arab? South Asian? North African?

When does murder due to ego, male pride, jealousy, a violent response to a partner’s infidelity get compartmentalised as domestic homicide?

In the wake of the Shafia murder-trial verdict, with the Canadian Justice Minister saying honour killings are “barbaric with no place in Canada” — Gerald Caplan for the Globe and Mail questions the posturing of honour killings as only a “THEM” phenomena.

And brilliantly argues all domestic violence resulting in murder is an honour killing.

I’ve added emphasis and reproduced much of the article — but you should really read the whole thing.

For some reason, the term honour killings seems to be reserved for murders committed by male family members against daughters or sisters in South Asian or Middle Eastern communities. These unimaginable crimes have been receiving much high-profile notoriety in the Canadian media, as they surely deserve.[…]

But I’m confident that not one in a million is aware that in Ontario alone, from 2002 until only 2007 (the latest data), 212 women have been killed by their partners. That’s 42 every year, compared with 12 so-called honour killings in all of Canada in the past eight years. Women killed by partners are known as domestic homicides, and, unless especially gruesome, are barely worth a mention in the media. Maybe there’s just too many of them to be newsworthy.[…]

What accounts for the high profile of these relatively small number of murders in Canada? Why do we know little or nothing about the larger epidemic of women killed, almost routinely it sometimes seems, by boyfriends or husbands? Is it less terrible to be strangled to death or shot or have your throat slit by them than by family members? Is it just too commonplace to bother paying attention to? Do we still harbour that sneaking suspicion that women murdered by partners have somehow brought it on themselves?

Yet both kinds of murders have a common root. Both are honour killings, reflecting a twisted, pathological male sense of honour. Both are executed by men who feel they haven’t received their due deference, men who consider “their” women, whether daughter or partner, to be their chattel, to do with as they choose. Have we smug white Canadians forgotten that you don’t have to be a Muslim or South Asian to regard women this way? […]

No nation, religion, class or ethnic group has the monopoly on misogyny. Honour killings should be seen not as uniquely evil but as the most extreme and perverse proof of this truth.

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