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date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Honor killings are an extreme type of gendered domestic violence, with peculiar characteristics related to the social and cultural traditions of tribal, patriarchal societies. The killings are motivated by the goal to restore a family’s collective reputation that has been damaged by the victim’s violation of very strict norms regulating female sexuality, and they are viewed by the assailants as a legitimate punishment, often condoned by local communities and tolerated by state agencies. While the paradigmatic honor killing is the murder of a young woman by her male relatives, intimate-partner homicides are often included in definitions of the crime, as are cases with male victims. Pakistan, Arabian countries, and Turkey are reported to have the highest number of cases, but reliable statistics are lacking. This essay gives an overview of the current state of research on honor killings in the Maghreb region, in western and central Asian countries, as well as in industrialized countries; offers an explanation of the crime focusing on macro-level societal factors; and reflects on the controversial question of whether honor killings are distinct from other forms of violence against women. The legal provisions permitting an exceedingly lenient treatment of assailants in many of the most affected countries are examined, and the prospects for current criminal justice reforms that play a key role in the fight against honor killings are assessed.

Keywords: homicide, honor-related violence, intimate-partner violence, collectivism, criminal law

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