National NOW Times >> Summer, 2000 >> Article
NOW, Nadler Unite Against
by Martha Wright, Communications
What is the price of a family's honor? Sometimes, it's a
In June, the National Organization for Women joined
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for the introduction of
H.R.362, a resolution to condemn "honor crimes," the practice of burning,
maiming or killing women who have been accused of bringing shame to their
According to Carlos Salinas, director of Amnesty
International's legislative program, victims of so-called honor crimes are
murdered after seeking a divorce, committing adultery or even being raped.
These women are injured or killed by a male member of their family, for
what are often perceived, not proven, indiscretions, much less
"Honor crimes is a dangerous oxymoron. It's a skewed moral
code that says that killing a woman is an honorable act, but surviving a
rape is an unforgivable taint," NOW President Patricia Ireland said. "At
the root, this violence against women in the U.S. and around the world, is
about men maintaining control over women's behavior."
NOW with Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, the resolution calls for inclusion of
so-called honor crimes in the State Department's annual human rights
report, discussion with world leaders about such crimes, and allocation of
funds to law enforcement in countries where these crimes are most
Unsanctioned by any religion, honor crimes have been
studied and documented by Amnesty International and other human rights
organizations. In Pakistan, Amnesty uncovered one case where a family
opposed a woman's divorce from her abusive husband. At her father's
request, the woman was killed by her uncle while in her lawyer's office.
Though the attorney and a paralegal were present, the uncle was neither
tried nor punished.
The Indian Express, a newspaper based in
Bombay, reported more than 5,000 "dowry deaths" in India annually. When a
husband or in-law is unhappy with the size of a new wife's dowry, she
might be burned to death. The report, conducted in conjunction with
UNICEF, found a dozen women die each day in "kitchen fires," a euphemism
that disguises murder as an accident.
While the resolution
mentions specific countries, most of which are in the Middle East, Carlos
Salinas stressed that honor killings are unrelated to Islam or its
"Honor killings are a tribal custom that calls for lethal
violence based on the flimsiest of suspicions. Honor crimes are brutal,
ruthless and wholly deserving of our attention," Salinas
Patricia Ireland urged members of Congress to pass the honor
crimes resolution and to be vigilant about violence in the United
"When U.S. women are victims of violence at the hands of
their partners, make no mistake about it, these are also 'honor crimes.'"
Ireland said. "They may not be called by the same name, but they share the
same motivation: control over women."
For more information on honor
crimes and violence against women, visit www.amnestyusa.org and
www.now.org. H.R.362, the resolution condemning honor crimes, was
introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler on June 22, 2000, and has been referred
to the House Committee on International Relations. Watch its status and
take action at www.now.org/congress.