When Love Means Risking Life

When Love Means Risking Life

Honor killings claim the lives of an estimated 5000 women every year.

Were Bristol Palin the child of a radical Islamic family--specifically one that believes a female disgraces her family if she dresses provocatively or attempts to marry without consent--she might not be pregnant. Instead, she might be dead.

The United Nations estimates that 5,000 women worldwide are killed each year in the name of preserving a family's honor. The transgressions that these women commit to justify their deaths? Being raped, wearing Western clothing, marrying a man from the wrong sect or community, and communicating with men on Facebook, to name a few. Often, their brothers or fathers carry out the murders themselves.

Pakistan is currently under the media lens after a member of its Parliament vindicated the mass killings of five women--three teenagers deemed guilty of dishonor after attempting to marry without their families' permission and two older women who tried to stop them from being killed--as "centuries old traditions," ones he vowed he would continue to defend.

But honor killings don't happen only in other parts of the world, they happen here, too. An Atlanta man, for example, strangled his 25-year-old daughter with a bungee cord in July because she wanted to divorce the man whom she'd wed in an arranged marriage. Her father, a Pakistani immigrant, said in court: "I have done nothing wrong." He believes his religion, Islam, ordains her murder.

Last month, the Boston Globe ran a report about honor killings in US and around the world. To read about women losing their lives for rights Americans consider unshakable is one thing, but to watch it happen is another. The Globe article included a link to a video, taken with a cellphone in 2007, of an Iraqi mob stoning a 17-year-old girl to death. Seek it out if you dare; the images won't soon, if ever, leave your memory. All of the men involved assumedly believe they were doing what their religion told them to do. In the case of several Middle Eastern countries, such as Pakistan and Jordan, charges for these killings are few and punishments soft.

Whether we lean red or blue in the November election, think Palin's daughter is fair game for the media spotlight or not, admire her decision to have a child at 17 or question how a black woman in similar circumstances would be judged, we are lucky to live in a country where religious liberty allows us these disparate views and, at the same time, does not supersede punishment for the ultimate dishonor--murder.


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