Honour Killings. The intersection of patriarchy, gender and religion
The modern world is divided into numerous continents, regions, countries, and cities, and
thus, there exists a plethora of different cultures and religions. The debate over the meanings of
culture and religion are highly litigious as there are many; however, for the purposes of this
essay, culture is defined as “the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional
features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature,
lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs”,1 and religion signifies
“human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual, or divine”.2 Diverse
gender constructions are inherent in each culture and religion, yet there is a pattern of gender
hierarchy that negatively intersects with women’s rights, culminating in the oppression of and
violence against women, as evidenced by the case of honour killings. The patriarchal foundations
of numerous cultures and religions create certain perceptions of gender roles and on how a
woman must conform to such constructions in order to belong or be accepted by said culture or
religion. Thus we are faced with the polemic of discovering how to harmonise religion and
women’s rights when they contradict each other in order to create a peaceful and multicultural society
which ensures that the rights and the dignity of women are upheld.
Honour killing is a practice that has also put certain women “at personal risk from
patriarchal, cultural and religious belief systems of ‘honour and shame’”.3 The term honour
killing is defined as the “premeditated murder of preadolescent, adolescent, or adult women by
one or more male members of the immediate or extended family”.4 The driving force behind
honour killings is family honour; effectively, in certain cultures, violence committed against a
1 United Nations. UNESCO. UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.
2 “Religion.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.
3 Meetoo, V., and H. S. Mirza. “’There Is Nothing 'honourable' about Honour Killings’': Gender, Violence and the
Limits of Multiculturalism.” p. 188
4 Sev'er, Aysan, and Gökçeçiçek Yurdakul. “Culture of Honor, Culture of Change: A Feminist Analysis of Honor
Killings in Rural Turkey.” pp. 964-965.