On Wednesday night, Oklahoma State University hosted a free screening of “The Honor Diaries”, a documentary about honor-based violence facing women around the world.
I had watched the documentary before on Netflix prior to the screening at OSU. As someone who frequently reads and checks out articles and films about women’s rights, it caught my eye one Sunday afternoon and my boyfriend and I sat down to watch it. We had heard about and read a little bit on the subject, but by no means were he and I experts.
We were surprised at how pervasive the practice of honor-based violence against women is in areas of the country you’d least expect. Honor-based violence includes, but is not limited to, practices such as:
In Canada and the United Kingdom, to where larger populations of Middle Eastern, Asian and African families immigrate, these practices are actually more common than you’d think. Even in the United States, these cases are on the rise. Perhaps living in Oklahoma where we are less culturally diverse than other states, we don’t hear about these cases often, but they are happening.
Many people don’t understand the history behind this gender-based violence, and one of the criticisms of the film is that is seems to perpetuate that the honor-based violence and killings are a result of the Islam religion. While it is true that these practices can and do take place in Muslim communities, Islam itself does not promote violence against women, or anyone for that matter.
- PLEASE watch this video with Reza Aslan, a widely respected scholar of religion, essentially disproving the stereotypes of Islam being a violent religion. It makes you really want to stop taking the word of sensational media outlets and begin doing some serious and sincere research on your own.
Honor killings and violence also take place in countries such as India where Hinduism is the predominant religion. FGM takes place in many African countries where there is no dominant religious influence. Clearly, honor-based violence is not just an “Islam” problem.
Instead, the practices seem to be deep-rooted in a cultural (not religious) environment of patriarchy. Although many women and men around the world have begun to stand up to these long-standing practices of violence, there are still many women who do not speak out against a practice that has become “tradition.” In fact, a root cause of this silence stems from a systemic history of gender inequality within those societies. Simply put, some societies really don’t know any other way of life and family members face fear of punishment if they deviate from the family’s wishes.
How do we end these practices of honor-based violence against women? I believe one of of the most effective ways to achieve this is through education of the problem. People need to be educated on the facts (not stereotypes), on the benefits of gender equality (both men and women), and on a larger scale (because “out of sight, out of mind” is a real thing). But there are other ways activists can work to end honor-based violence against women. I hope by writing this blog, I’ve at least shed some light on an issue that while uncomfortable for some to talk about, needs to be addressed as a conservative estimate of 5,000 women die annually from honor killings alone and more than 130 million girls and women today have been affected by FGM.