Turkish police have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive by relatives in an “honour” killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys.
The girl, who has been identified only by the initials MM, was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman.
A postmortem examination revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried. Her body showed no signs of bruising.
An informant told the police she had been killed following a family “council” meeting. The girl’s father and grandfather have been arrested and are being held for trial.
Official figures have indicated that more than 200 such killings take place each year, accounting for around half of all murders in Turkey. Women and girls are stoned to death, strangled, shot or buried alive. Their offenses ranged from stealing a glance at a boy to wearing a short skirt, wanting to go to the movies, being raped by a stranger or relative or having consensual sex.
In order to understand this, one must realize that in this culture honor is equated with women, women’s sexuality and the control of women. Honor is a property of women which is controlled by men. Women should passively obey the rules of conduct accepted as honorable while men have to actively make women obey these rules. As a result, ‘honor’ is usually formulated as something obliging both men and women to behave in a certain way. Women, in terms of “being careful about themselves, especially in their relations with men” and men, in terms of “having an attentive eye on their women.” -UNDP “The Dynamics of Honour Killing in Turkey.”
Recently, Turkey has tightened the punishment for attacks on women and girls in its bid to join the European Union. Persons found guilty of honor killing are sentenced to life in prison. There are well documented cases, where Turkish courts have sentenced whole families to life imprisonment for an honor killing. One result of this stricter enforcement is honor suicides. Families try to spare their men by forcing ‘disgraced’ women and girls to kill themselves. Women’s groups say that girls are often locked in a room with a rope, a pistol or rat poison until the job is done.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the annual worldwide total of honor-killing victims may be as high as 5,000.
Top Saudi Arabian religious officials have begun to endorse a clear distinction between the innocent meddling of the sexes and sinful behavior in recent weeks.
For decades, agents of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, (religious police) have enforced a strict separation of the sexes in Saudi Arabia. This policy has circumscribed the lives of women and girls and in some instances has resulted in tragic deaths.
In 2002, the religious police stopped girls from leaving their burning school because they were not wearing strict Islamic dress. The police also stopped men who tried to rescue the girls, warning, “It is sinful to approach them.” Several girls died.
Now, it seems, this was all a mistake. Religious officials have declared thatprohibitions against the mixing of the sexes in public places come from conservative tribal customs not the rules of sharia.
This sort of confusion is nothing new, nor is it unique to Islam or Saudi Arabia. Religion has long been used as a way to reinforce ethnic and cultural traditions that limit the rights of women and girls, including the right to inheritance and access to education, healthcare and decent work. Religion has also been used to justify harmful cultural practices such as FGM and child marriage.
It is to be hoped that religious leaders throughout the world will continue on this path of making honest distinctions between true religious law and discriminatory practices against women and girls that have their roots in custom and tradition.
I am currently the Co-chair of the NGO Committee on UNICEF – Working Group on Girls. One of our members is conducting a study on Girls’ Rights as part of her doctoral work at the University of Galway.
“Are you a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 years who is attending the upcoming 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2010? If so, then you are eligible to participate in an exciting study on girls’ rights at CSW54!
The study is titled, “What does it mean to be a girl with ‘rights’? A conversation with UN CSW girl delegates about how they understand and experience rights in their everyday lives.” The purpose of this research is to speak with girls about what rights mean to them and to explore how having rights impacts girls’ everyday lives.
To join the study:
– You must be attending CSW54,
– Be between the ages of 12-18 years, and
– Of course, be a girl!
Each participant is expected to attend 3 research sessions during CSW54 including:
– Peer-to-peer interview (where girls in the study interview one another),
– Focus group with all the girls in the study, and
– Individual interview.
Participation is voluntary and any information collected during the sessions will be kept strictly confidential and anonymous. A maximum of ten girls will be selected for this research.
Article 548 of Syria’s Penal Code had previously allowed for a complete “exemption of penalty” for the killing of female family members who had been found committing “illegitimate sex acts”, and for the murder of wives having extramarital affairs.
On 1 June, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad replaced this Article with one reading: “He who catches his wife, sister, mother or daughter by surprise, engaging in an illegitimate sexual act and kills or injures them unintentionally must serve a minimum of two years in prison.”
Syrian Women Observatory, an independent Syrian website for women’s rights, estimates there are nearly 200 honour killings there a year. The UNFPA estimates that as many as 5000 women and girls are victims of honour killings each year worldwide.
Human rights activists welcome Syria’s move to enforce a minimum jail sentence for honour killers as better than nothing, but are asking that the Syrian government go further and treat all murderers alike – no exceptions.
Prostitution is not illegal in Rhode Island, nor is it regulated. Only street prostitution is prohibited.
This has created a favorable climate for sex related businesses. Massage parlors, strip clubs, and “spas” have proliferated as well as sex trafficking and sex slavery.
Recently, girls under the age of eighteen were discovered dancing in strip clubs in the State and right now according to Rhode Island law, that’s not illegal.
State Rep. Joanne Giannini is currently working on a bill to prohibit minors from working in strip clubs. She blames legalized prostitution for creating the atmosphere where such a thing could happen in the first place.
If Ms. Giannini really wants to change the climate; reduce the number of sex clubs, fight human trafficking and protect girls and boys, I would suggest that she go for the jugular and sponsor a bill that makes paying for sex illegal. Stop the demand! It has worked well elsewhere and I the think Rhode Islanders will appreciate the change in climate.
In September of 1995 the United Nations convened the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. The official name of the Conference was “The Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace”. 189 governments participated in the conference and more than 5,000 representatives from 2,100 non-governmental organizations.
The outcome document of this conference known as The Platform for Action set out a number of actions that were to lead to fundamental changes in the lives of women and girls. Section L of the document focuses on the girl child and contains nine strategic objectives with corresponding actions that were to be taken by governments and civil society.
The objectives are:
Eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl-child.
Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls.
Promote and protect the rights of the girl-child and increase awareness of her needs and potential.
Eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training.
Eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition.
Eliminate the economic exploitation of child labour and protect young girls at work.
Eradicate violence against the girl-child.
Promote the girl-child’s awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life.
Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of the girl-child.
In 2010 the United Nations will review progress on Beijing. An important part of this Beijing +15 review will be to ask how and in what ways girls are better off or worse off than they were in 1995.
As an NGO representative at the UN working on girls’ issues I am interested in what you think, especially if you are a girl.
Can you cite one success and one failure regarding any or all of these objectives? Thanks in advance for sharing your ideas.