Elevate Difference

Quest for Honor

Should the fate of our lives be put in the hands of another human being merely because we are women? The right to feel secure in one’s own body is a basic and fundamental human right that should be employed by all human beings, despite their race, sex, gender, religion, age, and class. Unfortunately, many individuals run the risk of being physically, sexually, emotionally, and psychologically abused merely for being women.

Out of every three women worldwide will be abused during her lifetime with rates reaching seventy percent in some countries. Violence against women is borderless. It knows no boundaries. It does not limit itself to the privileged or the poor, and it can be found anywhere and everywhere, amongst our sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts and friends. Quest for Honor provides its viewers with several real life cases that illustrate the hideous practice of so-called honor killing in Kurdistan. Runak Faraj, Kulthum Murad, Hemin Kaikay, and Lawen Asad investigate, interview, and challenge societal traditions and norms by revealing how a simple claim about women’s sexuality can result in her death.

The claim that women have brought shame upon their families becomes an incentive that legitimizes the cycle of violence against women. Although Quest for Honor focuses on honor crimes that have occurred in Kurdistan, one has to recognize that these cases repeat themselves over and over again in many different countries. Thus, the film should be considered to be a building brick that educates the general public by providing the latter with a visual representation of gendered violence.

Are honor crimes motivated by a patriarchal construction of society? Runak Faraj, editor of Rewan (Dawn), the Women’s Media Centre newspaper in Sulaymani, and her colleague Kulthum Murad try to answer this question by conducting several interviews with people of varying social statuses. “I’ve come for your opinion as an official,” Faraj tells Ali Hama Waso, who is the mayor of Rania. “There is a large number of women killed here.” His answer: “This is the case throughout Kurdistan, and the number hasn’t increased. Besides, men aren’t responsible for women’s suicides, women burning themselves or throwing themselves in the lake. The trouble is not Kurdish men or cultural expectations."

Although I support Mary Ann Smothers Bruni’s attempt to demonstrate the relation between honor crimes and patriarchy, I believe analyzing honor crimes solely as a patriarchal oppression disregards the legal, economic, and cultural structures present in every society that generate grounds for violence. All in all, Quest for Honor provides enough evidence to aid international media reporting on honor killings and facilitate the advancement of the women’s movement globally by embarrassing and shaming those countries that condone such atrocious practices against women.

Written by: May Abu Jaber, September 7th 2010

Even though it is a brief review about honor crimes, but I think it is deeply thought and touched on this important issue in a good way. At least it makes people aware of the problem and should be spread around. The film showed real cases of what happens in Kurdistan, but it represents what really happens in most underdeveloped countries. Women killed in the name of honor but that is not true in most cases. Yes, honor crimes are motivated by patrarchal construction of society. Laws must change in these countries so killers must be punished and put in jail for life. People need to be aware of such crimes and this kind of movies should be disseminated to spread awareness. Good topic and good review.

I name this kind of crimes as stigma crimes, People fear collective stigma especially when the misbehavior or deviant related to the social taboo (Sex) and the dignity of the trib. In Africa they have what is called breast ironing and genial cutting. It is ony\e type of violence against women and here some part of the global picture:

A review of (50) international studies conducted in (35) countries prior to 1999 showed that between (10%) and (69%) of women reported that they have been physically abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives, and (10%) to (30%) of women reported that they have experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner (Garcia-Moreno, Jensen, Ellsberg, Heise, & Watts, 2005; Krug, Dahlberg, Mercy, Zwi, & Lozano, 2002; Haarr, 2007). It is estimated that (25%) of the homicides in the U.S. are husband–wife killings (U.S. Department of Justice, 1995). According to the FBI, (30%) of women murdered in 1990 were killed by their husbands or their boyfriends (U.S. Department of Justice, 1995). Two to four females in the United States are killed each day by their male partners and over a lifetime in USA, around (25%) of women experience IPV (Tjaden and Thoennes, 2000). A local survey of Native American women in Oklahoma showed that (58.7%) of the participants reported lifetime physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence (IPV); past-year prevalence was (30.1%), of which (5.8%) were reports of physical violence, (3.3%), forced sexual activity incidents; and (16.4%), physical injuries (Malcoe, Duran, & Montgomery, 2004). Survey findings in the United States found that lifetime prevalence of IPV (battering) was (28.9%) (Coker, Davis, Arias, Desai, Sanderson, Brandt, & Smith, 2002). In Rakai, Uganda, (30%) of women reported having ever been physically abused by their partner, and 20% were physically abused in the last year (Koenig, Lutalo, Wabwire-Mangen, Kiwanuka, Wagman, Zhao, (2003). A national survey of women in Brazil found that prevalence of physical abuse ranged from (13.2%) to (34.8%), and psychological aggression was (78.3%) (Calverton, Reichenheim, Moares, Szklo, Hasselmann, de Souza, Lozana, & Figueiredo, 2006). In Nicaragua, a study of married women reported lifetime IPV prevalence of (52%), and yearly prevalence of (27%) (Ellsberg, Pena, Herrera, Liljestrand, & Winkvist, 1999). In Albania, (37%) of married women reported victimization (Burazeri, Roshi, Jewkes, Jordan, Bjegovic & Laaser, 2005). Location-specific studies found prevalence rates of (31%) in Nigeria, (42%) in Sudan (Ahmed & Elmardi, 2005), and (48%) in Zambia (Kishor & Johnson, 2004). In South Africa Prevalence of physical violence was (25%) (Jewkes, Levin, & Penn Kekana, 2002). In Matlab, Bagladesh, (17.5%) of women studied had experienced physical or mental violence from their husbands in the (4) months preceding the interview (Ahmed, 2005). Researchers have reported rates of physical violence against Arab women ranging from (26%) to (55%) (Ammar, 2000; Diop-Sidibe, Campbell, & Becker, 2005; El-Zanaty, Hussein, Shawky, Way, & Kishor, 1996; Haj-Yahia, 1999, 2000c; Maziak & Asfar, 2003, Al-Badayneh, 2004, 2005b). Attitudes toward violence against Arab women and women’s inferiority being socially acceptable in general and perceived as a family matter, and not considered a crime or a social problem (Araji & Carlson, 2001; Patterson, 2004; Al-Badayneh, 2005a; Djabari, 1998; Haj-Yahia, 2005, 1998b, 2002b, 2005; Zurayk, Sholkamy, Younis, & Khattab, 1997; Sheridan & Ghorayeb, 2004). Rates of acceptance of wife-beating range from (70%) of men and (90%) of women in rural Uganda (Koenig et al. 2003), to (53%) of women in Zimbabwe (Hindin 2003), (56%) of women in India (Koenig, Stephenson, Ahmed, Jejeebhoy, & Campbell, 2006), and (66.4%) of women in Nigeria (Oyediran & Isiugo-Abanihe 2005). In a study in North India, Koenig et al. (2006) reported that community-level norms concerning wife beating are significantly associated to the actual occurrence of physical violence, yet only a few studies have looked at the risk factors for acceptance of wife beating. In Uganda, younger age was associated with the acceptance of wife beating, and women were more likely than men to justify beating (Koenig et al. 2003).

Diab, I completely agree with labelling honor crimes, stigma crimes. I think that if we start to discuss honor crimes in such a manner, people will definately begin to realize that no matter how we name crimes against women they nonetheless represent the stigma attached to the bodies of females. Whether they occur in Europe, Africa, the Americas, and/or the Middle East-- such crimes demonstrate the contimuum of violence against a specific gender!

I am very impressed by May Abu Jaber's review of Mary Ann Smothers Bruni's "Quest for Honor". Her insightful and in-depth comments on honor crimes, prevalent in many societies, is an eye-opener, especially her premise that "analyzing honor crimes solely as a patriarchal oppression disregards the legal, economic, and cultural structures present in every society that generate grounds for violence". The reviewer demonstrates the human tragedy facing women by emphasizing the fact that violence against women is borderless and that it does not limit itself to the privileged or the poor. This view is illustrated by several real life cases in "Quest for Honor". As a film writer and critic with more than 40-year experience, and the author of seven books on American cinema, I salute May Abu Jaber for bringing out so many enlightening thoughts in such a precise, but very thoughtful review.

I haven't seen the film, however the writer has intrigued me to watch this.

films like this should be used to teach people in our region about this disgraceful act. Laws in our countries should not protect those who carry out these crimes, punishment must be hard to show that there is equality in our societies, to show that women shall not be treated as third class citizens.

Thank you May for the review, and looking forward to read more of these!

Deep respect to May Abu Jaber, You've sent a strong message, changes to Penal Code needed to save Women’s Lives, because all current law in the Mediterranean and Muslim worlds is nothing less than an endorsement for murdering women and girls, and the women need protection from these vicious acts enshrined in law, start by amending this code that reflect the seriousness of these crimes and accountability for perpetrators and protection for women and girls under threat should be immediate priorities, a report released in 2004 written by Kathleen Peratis, entitled "Honoring the Killers" based on research conducted in Jordan recommends in details how to protect the lives and physical integrity of women and girls by: • Examining and amending all legislation that in intent or effect discriminates against women and girls to ensure compliance with international human rights standards, including gender-neutral statutes related to adultery and premarital sex.; • Repealing in full penal code article 340 (providing a reduced sentence for a male who kills a female relative engaged in illicit sex); • Applying penal code article 98 (providing a reduced sentence for someone committing a crime in a "fit of fury") in a manner that is gender-neutral and that does not presume "fury" or "bad acts" in cases involving alleged "honor" crimes; • Repealing legal provisions that allow family members to drop charges for "honor" crimes; • Repealing laws that condition a woman's release from detention or prison on her being released to a male relative; • Ensuring that women who are detained or in prison can be released on their own recognizance and that they are fully protected after their release; • Ensuring that all individuals in positions of de facto authority, including tribal or local leaders who endorse or tolerate "honor" crimes and other violence against women or girls, are penalized in an effective and appropriate manner; and • Continuing to endorse, through radio, print, and other media, the government's support for women's and girls' rights to equality in all aspects of their public and private lives, including freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Train police to prevent and investigate "honor" crimes more effectively and humanely by: • Establishing, from the top down, a commitment to pursue "honor" crimes on a par with all other violent crimes-that is, to eliminate discrimination in the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of "honor" crimes and attacks; • Collecting and disseminating more reliable data on the number of "honor" crimes committed and attempted each year; • Investigating and prosecuting persons who threaten to harm female family members for dishonoring the family; • Recruiting and training female police officers to investigate crimes of domestic violence, including "honor" killings; • Establishing mandatory police training on crimes of domestic violence, and commissioning experts in this area to modify police attitudes and teach relevant skills; • Securing the cooperation of state and local authorities to ensure adequate economic and political support for the training and its implications; and • Prohibiting the police and forensic doctors from conducting or threatening to conduct virginity exams of women without their informed consent (consent given with the full knowledge of the purpose and risks of the procedure and the alternatives). Increase judicial responsiveness to the problem of "honor" crimes by: • Providing training and instruction to judges on the narrow limits of the "fury" defense; • Providing specialized training for certain prosecutors in each region to try cases of violence against women, including "honor" crimes. These prosecutors should be responsible for handling cases of violence against women in all the trial courts in their district; and • Training prosecutors responsible for cases of violence against women to eliminate gender discrimination in the handling of these cases and to recognize the serious and criminal nature of gender-based violence, including "honor" crimes.

With all my thanks.

When the term "honour killing" is brought up, most people (especially in the western world) tend to think of Muslims and Arabs, wrongly assuming that honour killings do not happen in their world. This is is due to the cultural associations that the media have attached to these terms. When a husband in an Islamic country murders his wife because he suspects she has been cheating, they label it an "honour killing". On the other hand, when a husband in the Western world murders his wife because he suspects her of cheating, it simply "murder". Getting rid of this label will go a long way to educating people about violence towards women, as it will open their eyes to the fact that it happens everywhere around us, not just in specific places.

i agree completely zagloob. in my opinion the portrayal of honour killings in the media is a large reason why the problem still exists to its current degree. when people are not invested in something, they don't pay as much attention to it. movies like 'quest for honour' address the problem directly, and hopefully will lead to more people being informed about the problem, and more people taking action.

The fact that in our world, in this day and age, we are still dealing with problems like these, is tragical. For all the advances that we have made to abolish racism and sexism, reading the numbers that Diab posted shows just how far we still have to go.

Thanks for bringing up the topic and for the reminder that violence against women is a global epidemic and not just a problem of the cultures of the 'third world'. I think it is right to think of violence against women as a systemic problem from patriarchy. But patriarchy manifests itself within the economic, social, legal and political structures..etc anyway so those systems also play a role in perpetuating violence against women.

I liked your article alot. I think it touched on important subjects which may have been forgotten with all this craziness in this world!

May - thanks for bringing light to this issue. Living in the USA, it is sometimes easy to think that this type of crime doesn't exist. We all need to do our part to end this atrocity.