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Attitudes towards ‘honor’ violence and killings in collectivist cultures: Gender differences in Middle Eastern, North African, South Asian (MENASA) and Turkish populations.



This chapter reviews recent research on gender differences in attitudes towards 'honor' based violence and killings in collectivist cultures. A divergent pattern is emerging from these studies that do not align fully with the established attitudinal research into victim blame attributions for other forms of violence against women. While these more recent studies confirm that females are less approving of violence compared to their male counterparts, it is notable that a proportion of females endorsed the abuse and killing of women in the name of 'honor'. The chapter concludes by discussing psychosocial explanations for these findings, including sexism and religiosity.
Attitudes towards ‘honor’ violence
and killings in collectivist cultures
Gender differences in Middle Eastern,
North African, South Asian (MENASA)
and Turkish populations
Roxanne Khan
Research has established that men and women perceive physical aggression differently. Overall
trends show that males, in comparison to females, are more likely to condone and justify the use
of interpersonal violence against women. Males are also more likely to blame the victim, to attribute
less responsibility to the assailant, to consider violent behaviors as less serious, and to recommend
more lenient punishments for perpetrators (Eigenberg & Policastro, 2016; Flood & Pease, 2009).
However, over the last few years, a less clear pattern is forming as a result of the growing
number of studies that examine the attitudes of people from collectivist cultures in Middle
Eastern, North African, South Asian (MENASA), and Turkish populations – more specifically,
in terms of their attitudes towards ‘honor’ based violence (HBV) and killings1 in accordance to
their gender. This chapter reviews these more recent studies to ascertain whether there are
gender differences in attitudes towards HBV and killings similar to the established paradigm for
general interpersonal violence, and if there is any consistency across populations. Psychological
explanations for women’s attitudes in support of HBV and killings within collectivist cultures
are also examined, as are the influences of sexism and religiosity.
The role of ‘honor’ in collectivist cultures
The use of aggression to defend honor has archaic and geographically wide roots (Rodriguez
Mosquera, 2016). In contemporary honor cultures, there is a focus on collectivism that emphasizes
the maintenance of strong bonds with both immediate and extended family. Collectivist honor
cultures are inherently patriarchal and are thus characterized by differential and unequal gender
roles. Males and females maintain their families’ honor by adhering to these restrictive gender
roles. Males are expected to act tough, show strength, and exercise control. Females, on the other
hand, maintain an honorable reputation by demonstrating their purity, modesty, and obedience
to their father and husband (Cohen & Nisbett, 1994; Vandello, 2016). As honor is maintained by
a reputable public social image, male and female gender roles are enforced collectively by families
and their wider community. Accordingly, social expectations demand that men use threats and
‘Honor’ violence in collectivist cultures
aggression to acquire, defend, or restore honor, even for perceived or slight insults (Vandello &
Cohen, 2003). As males are clear beneficiaries of these honor codes that maintain their social
privilege and dominance, they are encouraged by other men to maintain the status quo by using
‘honor’ violence against women who are perceived to be acting dishonorably.
This chapter focuses on attitudes towards female victims and therefore defines “‘Honor’ Based
Violence and ‘Honor’ Killing [as] … all violence implicated against a female for the deviancy of
her activities from the traditional cultural norms” (Elakkary et al., 2014: 77). ‘Honor’ based
violence has been reported widely across collectivistic cultures, for example, in the Mediterranean,
North America, and Latin America (Dietrich & Schuett, 2013; Vandello & Cohen, 2003).
‘Honor’ crimes more recently have been linked to Middle Eastern, North African, South Asian
(MENASA), and Turkish populations both domestically (in countries of origin) and
internationally, within diasporic communities. A number of recent high profile ‘honor’ killings
in Western Europe and North America, committed by families who originate from MENASA
and Turkish nations have been subject to considerable scrutiny. Consequently, ‘honor’ crimes
committed by, or against, family members from minority ethnic groups in the West have become
increasingly newsworthy (Korteweg & Yurdakul, 2010; Shier & Shor, 2016).
In Britain, the brutal rape, murder, and dismemberment of a 20-year-old Iraqi Kurdish
woman living in England, as organized by her family, was widely reported by the media. Before
she was murdered in 2006, Banaz Mahmod reported to the police her husband’s physical and
sexual abuse. She later reported death threats by her family for ‘dishonoring’ them when she left
her husband and entered a new relationship (Dyer, 2015). Other disturbing ‘honor’ killings had
previously been reported by the British press. In 1999, Rukhsana Naz, a mother of two children,
was strangled to death by her older brother while she was 28 weeks pregnant, because she refused
to have an abortion. Police investigations revealed that Ms. Naz’s mother, who considered her
daughter’s pregnancy to be dishonorable, held her legs down and instructed her older son to
murder her, while her younger son (a helpless witness to the murder) was forced to assist in the
disposal of her body (Dyer, 2015). Another widely reported case was the ‘honor’ killing of
Shafilea Ahmed, a 17-year-old British Pakistani. Ms. Ahmed’s mother and father were charged
with her murder. It also was revealed that, prior to her death, both parents had subjected her to
physical, psychological, and financial abuse (Chesler, 2015; Gill & Brah, 2014). The complex
dynamics underpinning these ‘honor’ killings brought to light the poor understanding of
professionals in the criminal justice system in their attempts to effectively respond to and manage
‘honor’ based abuse in diasporic populations. The ruthless murders of these young women,
nonetheless, served as an impetus to address ‘honor’ crimes both more seriously and explicitly
in the UK. Similar symbolic cases have been the driving force behind policy change in other
Western countries, including Germany (Grzyb, 2016), Finland (Keskinen, 2009), Sweden
(Wikan, 2008), and across North America (Chesler, 2009).
As a result of the increased media, social, political, and academic awareness of ‘honor’ crimes
in Western Europe and North America, it soon became apparent that the mechanisms underlying
perpetrators’ motivations for ‘honor’ violence and killings could be quite divergent from other
forms of interpersonal violence. In part, this was due to victims’ families’ endorsement and
approval of the abuse, violence, and even torturous murder to restore their honor. Seemingly
more paradoxical was that the victim’s kin and community were often the instigators of the
abuse, and in many instances, they organized or committed these murders themselves.
Perpetrator profile and motivations for ‘honor’ based violence
Male kin are the most commonly reported perpetrators of ‘honor’ based violence and killings;
that is, fathers, brothers, uncles, sons, cousins, etc. (Chesler, 2009). Yet, ‘honor’ based abuses,
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violence, and killings are also committed by female family members, including mothers, sisters,
aunts, and female relatives in-law (Elakkary et al., 2014; Keyhani, 2013). While males and females
appear to inflict ‘honor’ based abuse differently, the evidence suggests women, particularly
mothers, can be adept at inflicting hard psychological abuse, physical violence and ‘honor’ based
femicide, within specific contexts, and that their role could be significant. More commonly, they
condone the abuse committed by male relatives (Aplin, 2017; Chesler, 2015).
A range of motivations have been reported for inciting ‘honor’ crimes. These include sex
outside of marriage (including infidelity), pregnancy outside of marriage, or more elusively,
hearsay about contact with a male without family permission, and acting ‘too Western’ (Aplin,
2017; Chesler, 2009; Dyer, 2015; Nasrullah, Haqqi, & Cummings, 2009). If questioned by
authorities, it is common for perpetrators to underplay the abuse, or to justify it without
expressing remorse, and to claim that their abuse, violence, or killing has restored family honor
(Chesler, 2010; Dyer, 2015).
Victim characteristics and typologies of victimization
For close to two decades, a substantial body of work has advanced explanations of ‘honor’ based
victimization against women, in terms of the cultural dimensions and universal perspectives of
patriarchy and gender inequality (e.g., Gill, 2006; Grzyb, 2016; Meeto & Mirza, 2007; Sev’er
& Yurdakul, 2001). Other perspectives adopt a more holistic approach, including Do÷an (2013,
p. 491) who postulates that “patriarchy alone cannot explain the whole dynamic behind honor
killings, and especially honor killing cases where the victim is male, gay, and cases where the
defendant is a female”. Indeed, males represent a proportion of ‘honor’ violence and killing
victims (Dyer, 2015). A male is most typically victimized by association with a ‘dishonorable’
woman (Chesler, 2010) or if he is perceived not to be heterosexual (Steinke, 2013).
Overwhelmingly, however, the majority of HBV victims are adolescent and adult females. In a
pattern established across many studies, Aplin (2017) calculated that 96 percent of the 100 victims
in her study were female.
An array of abusive behavior is associated with HBV victimization, including psychological
torment, sexual abuse or physical assault (ranging from cutting off hair and beatings to acid
attacks and mutilations), restraints (for example, imprisonment or kidnapping), and being
forced into marriage (Aplin, 2017; Dyer, 2015; Kopelman, 2016; Zuhur, 2009). It is unsurpris-
ing then that victims report detrimental psychological, behavioral, and physical symptoms
including anxiety, attempted suicides, and running away from home (Khan, Saleem, & Lowe,
2017). A proportion of HBV offenses result in the victim’s physical torture and murder (Chesler,
Epidemiology of ‘honor’ based violence and killings
Globally, in what is considered to be a conservative estimate, it is reported that over 5,000
women are murdered every year in the name of ‘honor’ (United Nations Population Fund,
2000). One-quarter of all ‘honor’ killings worldwide are reported to occur in Pakistan (Nasrullah
et al., 2009). In 2014 alone, more than 700 women were victims of ‘honor’ killings in this one
nation (Fatima, Qadir, Hussain, & Menezes, 2017), with 1,957 murders estimated to have
occurred between 2004 to 2007 (Nasrullah et al., 2009). In East Turkey, while it was estimated
that approximately 25 to 75 ‘honor’ killings are committed per year (Sev’er, 2012), there are also
reports that 231 were recorded in just 2007 (Council of Europe, 2009) and that 574 ‘honor’
killings were reported between 2003 and 2007 (Human Rights Presidency of Turkey, 2007).
‘Honor’ violence in collectivist cultures
In Europe, the UK is reported to have the highest number of ‘honor’ killings, at a rate of one
homicide a month (Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 2014).
The number of non-fatal ‘honor’ violence cases is undoubtedly far greater (Al Gharaibeh,
2016). In Britain during 2010 alone, for example, 2,823 ‘honor’ abuse cases were reported across
39 police forces (Dyer, 2015), while over 11,000 cases were reported to UK police forces from
2010 to 2014 (Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, 2015). One prominent
British HBV support organization reported that approximately 6,700 help-seeking calls were
received just in 2015, with 250 new reports each month (Karma Nirvana, 2016). These figures
do not reflect the true extent of abuse experienced by victims. Due to the piecemeal manner in
which data are collected and recorded (Khan, 2007) and inevitable underreporting, these figures
instead most likely represent the tip of the iceberg. Yet, even as a vast underestimation, these
findings indicate that HBV is both a global and prevalent problem, with often detrimental and
potentially fatal consequences.
Attitudes towards ‘honor’ based violence and killings:
psychological explanations
Despite these ominous findings, it is only recently that empirical research has specifically explored
people’s attitudes towards ‘honor’ violence and killings. Knowledge in this area is valuable, not
least because a plethora of psychological literature has established that people’s attitudes and
beliefs are strongly linked to their behavior (see Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). Also, that people are
strongly influenced to act in accordance with other people’s attitudes and beliefs to protect family
honor. This was explicitly demonstrated in a study of 39 ‘honor’ killing prisoners in Turkey,
who reported they felt ostracized, harassed, and under great psychological pressure by community
members to commit the murder (Do÷an, 2013). Notable efforts have been made to apply key
attitudinal theories to explain people’s attitudes in support of ‘honor’ crimes. For example, based
on Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior, Roberts (2014) proposed a psychologically orientated
motivational model of HBV; its multifactor approach is innovative as it enables consideration of
how both males and females may hold attitudes that endorse violence as an acceptable response
to perceived dishonor.
This is pertinent because males’ and females’ attitudes towards ‘honor’ violence and killings
are integral in explaining how they might respond if they are exposed to this form of interpersonal
abuse, either as victim, witness, or instigator. In this way, a person’s positive attitude towards
‘honor’ violence and killings, regardless of their gender, might indicate a proclivity for endorsing
or committing ‘honor’ crimes, even if they themselves have been victimized. Likewise, if a
person holds negative attitudes towards HBV, this may be a motivator to safeguard victims and
make efforts to protect them. Victims who do not approve of this form of abuse may be more
likely to make efforts to protect themselves and seek help. It is not only the latent stigmatizing
beliefs of family and community members that are important. The attitudes of professionals
working in social welfare, healthcare, and emergency services, who may come into contact with
potential and actual HBV victims are also influential (Adana et al., 2011; Aplin, 2017; Dickson,
2014). Their professional positioning may act as the first line of defense for a victim experiencing
abuse. How professionals respond to their victimization may therefore play an important part in
the extent to which victims seek help (Can & Edirne, 2011).
It is acknowledged that myriad factors influence observers’ attitudes towards interpersonal
violence, including the level of blame assigned to a victim for being assaulted (Bryant & Spencer,
2003; Simon et al., 2001). This seemingly paradoxical phenomenon of victim blaming is strongly
influenced by observer gender. Typically, when compared to males, female observers are more
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likely to be disapproving of physical aggression overall (Locke & Richman, 1999). Females are
also more likely to blame male perpetrators (Eigenberg & Policastro, 2016; Witte, Schroeder, &
Lohr, 2006; Yamawaki, Ochoa-Shipp, Pulsipher, Harlos, & Swindler, 2012), and disapprove of
men who use physical violence against women (Feld & Felson, 2008). These gender differences
are more recently being investigated across, and within, a number of collectivist honor cultures,
in direct relation to ‘honor’ based violence and killings.
Gender differences in attitudes towards ‘honor’ based violence
and killings
In Arab populations, Eisner and Ghuneim (2013) examined attitudes towards ‘honor’ killing in
856 school children across 14 schools in Amman, Jordan’s capital. The children were aged
between 14 to 16 years (mean=14.6 years), with a roughly equal number of girls (53%) and boys
(47%). The sample was primarily Muslim (90.4%); the remainder were Christian (9%), Druze
(0.2%), or without religious affiliation (0.4%). In line with traditional differences in attitudes,
twice as many males (46.1%) as females (22.1%) supported the ‘honor’ killing of a female.
Similarly, a study in Pakistan examined the attitudes of an older general public sample from the
capital city, Islamabad (Shaikh, Shaikh, Kamal, & Mashood, 2010). As Pakistan has the highest
worldwide rate of ‘honor’ killing, attitudinal research conducted in this country is a valuable
resource. Participants were aged from 18 to 71 years (mean=35.4 years). Data from 601
participants (51.1% males and 48.9% females) showed that more males (64.8%) than females
(53.1%) approved of a husband killing his wife as a result of witnessing her in an extramarital
sexual liaison with a stranger. Significantly more males (65.2%) than females (55.8%) also believed
the husband was within his rights to kill the stranger to defend his honor. Unlike the younger
school children sample in Jordan, a majority of the females in this adult Pakistan sample approved
of these ‘honor’ killings, and a majority proportion of the whole sample thought that the wife
should not be forgiven (males=84.8%; females=71.9%).
In the Jordanian study, low educational attainment was a significant predictor of attitudes that
endorsed ‘honor’ killing (cf. Eisner & Ghuneim, 2013). Although not directly investigated, one-
third of the Pakistan sample had no formal education and one-quarter had only five to nine years
of education (cf. Shaikh et al., 2010). Other studies (e.g., Bagguley & Hussain, 2007) also suggest
that education level may be associated with attitudes towards HBV. A study that explored similar
attitudes in educated university students in Pakistan (male=523; female=466), is therefore useful
for making comparisons (Shaikh, Kamal, & Naqvi, 2015). A majority of this younger, educated
sample (aged 20 to 29 years, mean=22.7 years) did not believe that ‘honor’ killing was always
justified (83.3%). Although far lower in number, this study found significantly more males (9.9%)
than females (1.5%) believed there was a justification for the honor killing of females. The
authors concluded that: “Our study population – ostensibly more educated, cognizant of
the rights of women, and belief in the rule of law – had alarmingly disturbing attitudes when it
comes to extrajudicial killings in the name of crime based on misguided honor” (p. 423). These
findings support the contention that attitudes supportive of HBV are likely to occur across many
collectivist communities, regardless of education level (Brandon & Hafez, 2010).
Two studies were located that measured attitudes towards HBV in diasporic populations of
British South Asians in the UK. The first was an attitudinal survey conducted on 500 young
(aged 16 to 34 years) British South Asians (ComRes, 2012). Respondents described their
ethnicity as Indian (40.8%), Pakistani (30.8%), Bangladeshi (12.4%), Mixed (6.6%) or other Asian
(9.6%). Religious background was recorded as Muslim (51.4%), Hindu (21.8%), Sikh (10.8%),
Christian (9.4%), and other (2.8%). Although low in overall endorsement, males (6%) were more
‘Honor’ violence in collectivist cultures
likely than females (1%) to agree that there was ever a justification for ‘honor’ killings. There
was no marked difference for this belief across ethnicity or religion. A comparably small
percentage of males (8%) and females (5%) reported that in certain circumstances, it was right to
physically punish a female relative if she had dishonored her family or community. Again, there
was no notable difference in this belief across ethnicities or religions. When presented with a list
of possible reasons that justified HBV, 18 percent of both males and females agreed that at least
one was reasonable excuse for committing this form of abuse. There were no significant gender
differences for reasons that justified HBV, which ranged from disobeying a father (8%), marrying
someone unacceptable (7%) or wanting to end a marriage (7%). The second study to explore
the attitudes of British South Asians was conducted in an area of England that, in 2010, had the
fourth highest rates for HBV across 52 police forces (Khan, Saleem, & Lowe, 2017). Similar to
the previous study, the 216 participants in this sample (males=71; females=135) were also young
(age range 16 to 54; mean=21.93 years). The ethnic profile was analogous with the previous
study, and was recorded as follows: Pakistani (43.1%), Indian (41.9%), Bangladeshi (7.9%) or
mixed (7%). The vast majority reported that they were Muslim (93.8%), while the remaining
were Hindu (4.7%), Sikh (0.5%), Christian (0.5%), or other (0.5%). This study used a range of
hypothetical scenarios to ascertain participants’ approval of HBV across a range of situations (e.g.,
forced marriage, wanting to end a marriage). Principle component analysis revealed two
attitudinal themes, which were tested for participant gender: that is, perceptions of forced marriage,
and perceptions relating to dishonoring the family. In this predominantly young and well-educated
sample (91.1% were educated to college level or above), only one (non-significant) gender
difference was found; that males were more endorsing of forced marriage than females. Overall,
no gender differences were found for tolerance of ‘honor’ abuse, and all participants responded
in a way that demonstrated a low approval of this violence.
The inconsistent range of methodologies and approaches used in these studies permits only a
superficial inspection of the descriptive findings. These findings showed gender differences in
the approval of ‘honor’ violence and killings across all the studies. Overall, as might be expected,
females were less condoning of this form of abuse against other females, when compared to their
male counterparts. Regardless of gender, the level of endorsement was relatively low, with the
exception of the older Pakistan sample and young Jordan population of school children. Approval
of ‘honor’ violence and killings appeared to be influenced by nationality (which may reflect
acculturation) and level of education. Also apparent across all studies was the high number of
participants who ascribed to a religion, which was predominately to Islam.
Accounting for this, studies that have explored the attitudes of trainee healthcare workers in
collectivist, Islamic cultures may be of particular importance. These professionals in training are
likely to have direct contact with HBV victims in practice settings, and are thus in a good positon
to provide emergency care and welfare support to populations vulnerable to, or victims of HBV.
One such investigation recruited a young sample (aged 20 to 25, median=23 years) of final-year
nursing students in a predominantly “Moslem” area of East Turkey (Can & Edirne, 2011). A total
of 225 students (males= 77.3% and females= 22.7%) were asked about their attitudes towards HBV
victims, and attitudes towards screening patients for HBV. In line with previous studies, there was
a low endorsement overall and significantly more males (7.8%) than females (3.4%) agreed with
the statement “I justify honor crimes”. It is noteworthy that, while not significant, almost twice
as many males (15.7%) as females (8%) claimed to feel devoted to ‘honor’ rules. It was significant
however, that more females (76.4%) than males (51%) supported nurses screening patients for
‘honor’ crimes. Furthermore, while a majority of all the nursing students thought ‘honor’ crimes
were associated with religion (females=69%; males=56.9%), significantly more women (63.8%)
than men (31.4%) thought these crimes were associated with male-dominated society.
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Two studies that explored attitudes towards HBV in student populations, from collectivist
and individualist cultures, also merit a review here. One study explored attitudes toward ‘honor’
killing in a total of 96 Turkish (predominantly Muslim: 86.5%) and Italian (primarily Roman
Catholic: 63.2%) university students living in two main cities, Istanbul (female=59.4%) and
Turin (female=66.2%) (Caffaro, Ferraris, & Schmidt, 2014). The mean ages were similar for
both the Turkish (21.2 years) and the Italian (24.6 years) samples. The study used three hypo-
thetical scenarios to depict a husband’s ‘honor’ killing of his wife in response to her alleged
adultery, adultery, and adultery in flagrante delicto. In response to three questions, and regardless of
scenarios or culture, when compared to their female counterparts, males did not attribute
(1) more responsibility to the victim, (2) less responsibility to the perpetrator, or (3) recommend
less severe punishment. Yet, an interaction between culture and gender was observed; namely,
that there were no gender differences in the Italian sample, for attribution of the husband’s
responsibility and punishment, whereas Turkish males attributed less responsibility to the
husband for the murder of his wife, and less severe punishment than did their female Turkish
counterparts. The second study assessed Italian (66.5%= Roman Catholic; 33.9%= atheist),
Moroccan (100% Muslim), and Cameroonian (100% Roman Catholic) University of Turin
students’ attitudes towards HBV. One hypothetical scenario was presented to depict a possessive
father physically beating then confining his 17-year-old daughter as a result of the shame he felt
for her living a modern lifestyle and dating a boy behind his back (Caffaro, Mulas, & Schmidt,
2016). Again, an interaction between nationality and gender was observed as follows: Italian
males attributed less responsibility to the father than did Italian women and, in a departure from
the established gender-disparity pattern, Cameroonian females attributed more responsibility
to the victim, and less to the perpetrator, than their male counterparts. Also, the predominantly
Christian Cameroon sample was more permissive of HBV, even when compared to the
Moroccan Muslims.
Overall, there are gender disparities in the studies that explicitly explored attitudes towards
‘honor’ violence and killings in collectivist, predominantly Islamic populations. While these
findings align with the gender differences found in the more established attitudinal research into
other forms of interpersonal abuse, the emerging pattern is, to some extent, divergent. This is
because, superficially at least, a proportion of women from collectivist cultures of honor highly
endorse the use of abuse, violence, and killing other females (who were hypothetically their
counterparts), in the defense of family honor. In an effort to explain what appears to be a victim-
blame paradox, this chapter ends by considering a number of theories that unlock the interweaving
psychosocial mechanisms that might be contributing to it.
One account that has been used to explain victim-blame is the “defensive attribution” hypothesis
(Shaver, 1970). This occurs because observers want to protect themselves from blame should a
similar fate befall them. This hypothesis is a robust model that has been usefully applied to female
victim-blame attributions in a range of hypothetical scenarios including rape (Pollard, 1992) and
domestic violence (Locke & Richman, 1999). This hypothesis has not yet been explicitly applied
to HBV in the existing literature, but research into perceptions of female victims of other forms
of violence provides a pragmatic exemplar from which HBV victim-blame can be postulated.
Accordingly, HBV victim-blame could be thought of as a rationalized form of self-protection;
the more an observer perceives themselves to be similar to the victim, the less the victim is
blamed by those observing them. Even at a cursory level, this theory falls short in explaining
women from collectivist cultures’ attitudes in support of ‘honor’ violence. Conflicting with this
‘Honor’ violence in collectivist cultures
hypothesis, there was a high rate of endorsement for ‘honor’ killing from women in the Pakistan
study (cf. Shaikh et al., 2010), to the extent that over half condoned a murder, and more than
three-quarters thought the victim should not be forgiven. Likewise, in the Jordanian study of
school children, one-quarter of the girls endorsed a woman’s ‘honor’ killing (cf. Eisner &
Ghuneim, 2013).
Perhaps a more plausible explanation is the “just world” hypothesis (Lerner, 1980). This
asserts that: because the world is presumed by many to be a fair and just place, people implicitly
believe that victims of violence must have acted in a way to deserve it. Just world beliefs have
been used to explain female victim-blame across a number of populations, including collectivist
cultures. One study that applied this hypothesis assessed young (mean age=22 years) students’
attitudes towards a female rape victim in Turkey (Sakallı-U÷urlu, Yalçın, & Glick, 2007). The
findings showed that, regardless of gender, beliefs in a just world, as well as benevolent and
hostile sexism, predicted less positive attitudes towards the victim. The influence of sexism was
explored in another study of young (mean age=20.94) Turkish university students, in relation
to their attitudes towards honor beliefs (Glick, Sakallı-U÷urlu, Akbaú Orta, & Ceylan, 2016).
While benevolent sexism predicted women’s honor beliefs, and hostile sexism predicted men’s
honor beliefs, it was notable that Islamic religiosity predicted honor beliefs for both males and
females, but more so for females.
Despite gaps in the extant literature, there are patterns forming from these studies that indi-
cate avenues worthy of further investigation. For example, the importance of Islamic religiosity
on women’s attitude formation was noted by Glick et al. (2016, p. 547) “because women across
the globe are typically as or more religiously devout and spiritual than men, any relationship
between women’s religiosity and honor beliefs assumes a special importance for understanding
why women might accept honor codes.” Other authors also recommend that research efforts
do not underplay the powerful influence of religion on people’s collective belief systems, or
overlook evidence that indicates ‘honor’ crimes are particularly widespread in strongly patriar-
chal and collectivist societies where Islam is the prevailing religion (Grzyb, 2016; Vandello,
2016). To some degree, an open and transparent exploration of these factors would allow for a
fuller consideration of what Aplin (2017, p. 2) refers to as the “patriarchal bargain”, that women
from collectivist honor cultures are forced to engage in, “in order to resist total male control,
women become participants with a vested interest in the system that oppresses them. Rather
than resist and rebel, women negotiate within this confined and limited space, as a form of
Much can be drawn by piecing together the findings of these attitudinal studies. While they
demonstrate a pressing need for further research, they also indicate that across a range of ages
and populations in a number of collectivist cultures, both males’ and females’ attitudes may play
a part in maintaining the propagation of ‘honor’ based abuse. While, to some degree, this might
have been expected for males, the support of honor violence and victim-blame against women
by a proportion of females in these studies brings into question the naive assumption that women
might always act as protectors, and effectively safeguard girls and young women from harm
(Aplin, 2017; Chesler, 2015). It would be useful if intervention approaches responded to these
findings by designing culturally aware programs that aim to effectively educate both male and
female family members. It would also be prudent if emergency, health, and welfare services
revised training programs to increase professionals’ awareness of the potential for latent support
for ‘honor’ abuse in vulnerable families and communities, regardless of gender. The attitudes of
practitioners are of vital importance, not least because these victims are at an even more elevated
risk when they break the powerful and archaic codes of family honor to seek help, support, and
protection from external agencies.
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1 The terms ‘honor’-based violence, ‘honor’ abuse, ‘honor’ crimes, and ‘honor’ killings are used throughout
for succinctness and consistency; these terms differ across cited sources but they all refer to crimes
committed in the name of so called ‘honor’.
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students about social gender roles: An example from East of Turkey’, Journal of Family Violence, 26:
Al Gharaibeh, F. M. (2016). ‘Debating the role of custom, religion and law in “honor” crimes: Implications
for social work’, Ethics and Social Welfare, 10: 122–139.
Aplin, R. (2017). ‘Exploring the role of mothers in “honor” based abuse perpetration and the impact on
the policing response’, Women’s Studies International Forum, 60: 1–10.
Bagguley, P. and Hussain, Y. (2007). The Role of Higher Education in Providing Opportunities for South Asian
Women (Vol. 2058). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.
Beyers, J., Leonard, J. M., Mays, V. K., and Rosén, L. A. (2000). ‘Gender differences in the perception of
courtship abuse’, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15: 451–466.
Brandon, J. and Hafez, S. (2010). Crimes of the Community: Honor-Based Violence in the UK. London: Centre
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... This thorny issue stems from using the misnomer 'honor' killing, as it suggests that victims are to blame for the violence inflicted on them, and that perpetrators can be condoned for murdering them. On one side, this ambiguity provides a cultural defense that has been used to justify 'honor' crimes, and on the other, this cultural framing has been used to stigmatize whole Middle Eastern, North African, South Asian (MENASA), and Turkish communities leading to the demonization of Muslim families, in particular (Khan, 2018a). ...
... Family 'honor' killings are the intentional and often brutal murder of a woman or girl, by her male and female relatives or members of her community. They may claim, in their defense, that these murders are committed to protect or reclaim their family's honor after the victim has publicly shamed them by behaving in a dishonorable way (Khan, 2018a). The type of behavior considered to be shameful varies widely and victims are often judged without proof -suspicion alone can prompt a family 'honor' killing. ...
... By contrast, family 'honor' killings are often committed as a collective response by any number of a girl or woman's relatives and community members -close and distant -who may be involved in planning, committing, or concealing her murder (Cooney, 2019). While male and female relatives' involvement and motives may differ, the desire to punish a victim, and those who help or support her, can span a long period of time (Khan, 2018a). While perpetrators may be pressurized into melting out punishment, or be chastised or ostracized if they do not, they are often lauded for restoring their family's 'honor' by using violence, and their reputation can be enhanced for committing a more tortuous death (Doğan, 2014). ...
... A number of studies have distinguished between mild and more severe forms of aggression by considering a range of aggressive sibling behaviors, including incidences of severe abuse (Eriksen and Jensen 2009). These studies report the use of weapons (e.g., blunt objects, knives) resulting in physical injury (e.g., cuts, bruises, broken limbs) in normative (Khan and Rogers 2015;Khan 2018), clinically referred (Tompsett et al. 2016), and forensic (Khan andCooke 2008, 2013) populations. Similar outcomes are reported in national databases (e.g., Krienert and Walsh 2011). ...
... A number of studies have distinguished between mild and more severe forms of aggression by considering a range of aggressive sibling behaviors, including incidences of severe abuse (Eriksen and Jensen 2009). These studies report the use of weapons (e.g., blunt objects, knives) resulting in physical injury (e.g., cuts, bruises, broken limbs) in normative (Khan and Rogers 2015;Khan 2018), clinically referred (Tompsett et al. 2016), and forensic (Khan andCooke 2008, 2013) populations. Similar outcomes are reported in national databases (e.g., Krienert and Walsh 2011). ...
... This area is worthy of investigation given that a recent study conducted in England found, contrary to this postulation, a higher frequency of mild and severe physical aggression against full siblings than with half siblings, including the use of potentially life-threatening violence such as purposeful strangulation, beatings, and the use of weapons (Khan et al. 2020). Living with a genetically unrelated brother or sister was also found to be a predictor of severe, potentially lethal violence against siblings in a young offender sample in England (Khan andCooke 2008, 2013). ...
... Such cultures create environments where their inhabitants are socialized to defend their honour fiercely against any threats to their social image or reputation (Souza et al., 2017;Uskul et al., 2015). According to Khan (2018), there is a contention that collectivist cultures centred around honour uphold patriarchal systems, resulting in the enforcement of distinct and unequal gender roles upon both men and women by other members of their respective groups. In these cultures, male identities are often associated with authority and dominance, while female identities are strongly linked to concepts of sexual purity, family reputation, and adherence to appropriate attire (Christianson et al., 2020). ...
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The current study examined the role of the type of honour endorsement (masculine, feminine, family, moral integrity) in the tolerance to intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW) in Sri Lanka. Three hundred and sixty-two Sri Lankan participants completed an online questionnaire. Results revealed that feminine honour and masculine honour were positively associated with, and moral integrity was negatively associated with, tolerance to IPVAW. Results also showed that men were more likely to tolerate IPVAW than women, and women were more likely to endorse feminine honour and family honour than men. The results suggest that specific types of honour play a predictive role in tolerance to IPVAW along with gender differences that are in line with cultural and gendered norms.
... Migrant women may also encounter language barriers, a fear of having their children taken away from them, and fear the isolation that may come from condemnation by their community . Women from minoritised communities may also feel coerced into maintaining a family's perceived honour by obeying their husband and under pressure to conform to community pressure and not seek help (Khan, 2018). ...
Purpose In March 2020, the UK entered its first lockdown responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the same month, the Domestic Abuse Bill had its first reading in Parliament. Charities and non-governmental organisations critiqued the Bill for failing to protect migrants from domestic abuse, and not complying with the Istanbul Convention. Drawing on interviews with staff from Southall Black Sisters, this paper aims to foreground the experiences of practitioners within the women’s sector to explore the unique experiences and challenges migrant and racially minoritised women encountered when seeking support from domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic. It highlights how the pandemic-related lockdowns created barriers to accessing support services and housing, creating an epidemic within the pandemic, and how minoritised women and the organisations that supported them had to overcome structural barriers and racism. Design/methodology/approach In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with staff from a leading women’s organisation that supports migrant and racially minoritised women. Four participants were asked questions within four themes: domestic abuse before and during the pandemic; accessing support from and reporting domestic abuse; accessibility of resources; and post-pandemic challenges. A phenomenological approach was used to analyse the transcribed interviews. Findings Participants consistently highlighted the unique threats and barriers migrant and racially minoritised women faced when seeking support. Barriers included racism, language barriers, cultural constraints, the triple threat of destitution, detention, deportation, and political resistance to protect migrant women from destitution/homelessness. Originality/value This paper provides a unique insight into the experiences of staff members within a specialist by and for women’s support organisation in England and their perspectives on the barriers racially minoritised and migrant women experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. It offers rare insights into how service users’ needs changed during the lockdowns and how the pandemic affected their ability to operate.
... In cultures where honor is a central value, conflicts can be particularly common (1,2). Honor killings and honor-related crimes have been documented by anthropologists for over a century across regions of the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas (3,4,5). Within the US Southern culture of honor, aggressive acts dating back to the 1800s often have been deemed appropriate and even necessary (2,6). ...
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In honor cultures, relatively minor disputes can escalate, making numerous forms of aggression widespread. We find evidence that honor cultures’ focus on virility impedes a key conflict de-escalation strategy—apology—that can be successfully promoted through a shift in mindset. Across five studies using mixed methods (text analysis of congressional speeches, a cross-cultural comparison, surveys, and experiments), people from honor societies (e.g., Turkey and US honor states), people who endorse honor values, and people who imagine living in a society with strong honor norms are less willing to apologize for their transgressions (studies 1–4). This apology reluctance is driven by concerns about reputation in honor cultures. Notably, honor is achieved not only by upholding strength and reputation (virility) but also through moral integrity (virtue). The dual focus of honor suggests a potential mechanism for promoting apologies: shifting the focus of honor from reputation to moral integrity. Indeed, we find that such a shift led people in honor cultures to perceive apologizing more positively and apologize more (study 5). By identifying a barrier to apologizing in honor cultures and illustrating ways to overcome it, our research provides insights for deploying culturally intelligent conflict-management strategies in such contexts.
... In studies conducted in other countries where the culture of honor is dominant, it has been observed that the perpetrator is almost not blamed by society as the culture of honor legitimizes the aggressive and oppressive behavior of men (Khan, 2018). A study investigating the perspective of the police on perpetrators of violence in Afghanistan found that when the victim was in a relationship with another man, the police showed softer attitudes towards the perpetrators, and their desire to arrest decreased (Baldry et al., 2013). ...
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Dating violence is manifested in different forms between romantic partners. Psychological violence, the most common form of dating violence, is more likely to affect women, eliciting feelings such as shame and guilt. The robust relationship of sexism to psychological dating violence victimization (PDVV) is well-documented but whether PDVV serves as a mechanism linking sexism to guilt and shame remains unexplored. This study, therefore, investigated the potential mediating role of PDVV in the association between sexist attitudes and feelings of guilt and shame. Dating college women (N = 219) from Turkey, an honor culture in which one's self-worth lies on one's evaluation as well as the assessment of what others think, participated in the study. High rates of PDVV were found in this culture, and structural equation modeling revealed that PDVV mediated the relationship between sexism and feelings of guilt and shame. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for future research and how sexist attitudes might be challenged to reduce the adverse
... As a starting point, gendered politics of shame in Pakistani society can be understood through the lens of "collectivist cultures" [3] where familial bonds with close and extended family members play a crucial role in shaping personality. In the patriarchal family set-up, an obvious manifestation of inequitable gender roles is the power delegated to males and older family members who safeguard family honor, izzat by monitoring female family members and punishing shameful behavior that could tarnish the family reputation (Mann, 1994;Khan, 2018;Begum, et al., 2020). In collectivist cultures, the importance of family honor primes over individual freedom. ...
Indigenous Pakistani transgenders — khwaja sira — employ gender ambiguous identity performances as a resistance tactic against politics of shame. This article explores how a tactical performance of a gender ambiguous identity portrayed via Snapchat’s cute animal lenses can subvert the culture of gendered shaming. Drawing on two feminist resistance tactics: performative shamelessness and weaponized/agentic cuteness, I investigate how Snapchat’s animal lenses can be used to achieve a subversive effect as identified in the case of “The Desi Bombshell” — a fictive online persona. Through close reading and content analysis of “Desi Bombshell” video selfies, I propose the concept of shamelessly cute. I argue that a shamelessly cute, gender ambiguous performance is a novel resistance tactic on social media as it explicitly displays a clumsy, Snapchat enabled identity, while implicitly it challenges the Pakistani politics of shame from within its culture by reworking indigenous practices and gestures.
... These professionals and the police have been criticized for their adherence to stereotypes, inadequate responses, and failure to protect vulnerable victims (Keeping, 2012;Korteweg & Yurdakul, 2010;MacIntosh & Keeping, 2012). In addition, research has shown that victims experiencing HBV and FM are likely to run away, to self-harm, or to attempt suicide, demonstrating the severe implications of HBC (Belfrage et al., 2012;Chantler, 2012;Chantler et al., 2009;Chantler & McCarry, 2020;Hague et al., 2013;Jiwani, 2014;Khan, 2018;Khan et al., 2018). ...
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Police understandings of honour-based crimes (HBCs) and forced marriages (FMs) vary in terms of an individual officer's level of expertise, knowledge, and experience in handling such situations. This study applied constructivist grounded theory approaches to analyze individual interviews with 32 police officers and 14 civilians in police agencies operating in urban and rural settings in Alberta, Canada. Specifically, this paper seeks to answer how police officers and civilians who work in police agencies experience, make sense of, and understand HBCs. Participants received a hypothetical vignette about a young woman who had reached out to the police. The vignette illustrated various forms of abuse by the woman's father, the involvement of other actors (mother, brother, family friend) and the culmination in an FM. After reading the vignette, participants were asked to respond to six questions. Analysis revealed that both police and civilians recognized the need in the vignette scenario for intervention, while experiencing uncertainty about how to respond. The findings showed that not everyone in policing would be able to identify reliably the need for police intervention, and that investigations could proceed differently depending on the investigator's level of knowledge and awareness of HBCs and FMs. Police have achieved some successful interventions, but still lack sufficient guidance on how to respond to these crimes. Clear, appropriate policies regarding which cases need to be directed to specialized domestic violence units for follow-up are needed. A significant finding points to the importance of considering cultural sensitivity discourses as well as the impact of cultural and racist stereotypes when responding to situations like the one outlined in the vignette.
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Kadına yönelik şiddet, hem dünyanın hem de Türkiye’nin en önemli toplumsal sorunlarından biridir. Ataerkil kültürün birürünü olan kadına yönelik şiddetin sözde nedenlerinden birisi “namus” olgusudur. Namus kültürünün egemen olduğu toplumlarda kadınlar namus adına sözel, psikolojik, cinsel ve fiziksel şiddete uğramakta hatta namus cinayetlerine kurban gitmektedirler. Namus adına kadına uygulanan şiddete yönelik tutumların sosyodemografik değişkenlerden etkileneceği varsayımından hareketle bu araştırmanın amacı gelecekte toplumsal yapının belirleyicileri ve yön vericileri olacak olan üniversite öğrencilerinin namus adına kadına uygulanan şiddete yönelik tutumlarının cinsiyet, okunulan alan, sınıf düzeyi, ailenin gelir düzeyi, gelinen bölge, anne-baba eğitim düzeyi gibi sosyo-demografik faktörlere göre farklılaşıp farklılaşmadığını ortaya koymaktır.
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There is limited research on how police conceptualize “honour”-based crimes and forced marriages; to the best of my knowledge, this qualitative study is the first to examine the perceptions of police officers and civilians working in Canadian law enforcement agencies. This study is based on semi-structured in-depth interviews with 46 research participants: 32 police officers of various ranks and 14 civilian members working in rural and urban settings across Alberta. This dissertation brings together multiple perspectives, which contributes to understanding the need to improve policing practices to prevent, protect, and investigate these crimes.
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Purpose: This study explored attitudes towards, and victimisation experiences of, ‘honour’-based violence (HBV) in a reportedly vulnerable population in the UK. Methodologies: A convenience sample of 216 participants were recruited from a local community in England; the majority were young (mean age=21.93), Indian or Pakistani (85%), Muslim (96%), females (67%). Findings: Although gender differences were found for attitudes towards one aspect of HBV (namely, forced marriage), these were not significant. While HBV victimisation affected only a small proportion of this sample, when it was reported, the effects were serious and included anxiety, attempted suicides, and running away from home. This highlights the need to identify and safeguard vulnerable groups without stigmatising whole communities. Value: These findings contribute to the scarce literature available on HBV in British communities, and highlight a need for culturally-aware emergency and health service provision.
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In these brief remarks I use the present collection of papers to this special issue on women in the Muslim World to address broader questions about a psychology of women in Islam. I discuss what might constitute Muslim culture, arguing that the combination of the themes of religiosity, collectivism, tightness, conservatism, gender differentiation and patriarchy, and honor offer a good starting point as a taxonomy for a distinct Islamic culture. Next, I discuss the present contributions to this special issue in the broader context of challenges faced by women in Muslim cultures, which are often among the most gender unequal in the world. Finally, I offer some suggestions for advancing cultural research on women in the Islamic World.
The forced marriage of minors is child abuse, consequently duties exist to stop them. Yet over 14 million forced marriages of minors occur annually in developing countries. The American Bar Association (ABA) concludes that the problem in the US is significant, widespread but largely ignored, and that few US laws protect minors from forced marriages. Although their best chance of rescue often involves visits to health care providers, US providers show little awareness of this growing problem. Strategies discussed to stop forced marriages include recommendations from the UN, the ABA, and the UK. The author anticipates and responds to criticisms that first, no duty to intervene exists without better laws and practice guidelines; and second, that such marriages are not child abuse in traditions where parental rights or familism allegedly justify them.
This paper presents an approach to honor as multifaceted. In this approach, honor is defined as having four different facets, or honor codes: morality-based honor, family honor, masculine honor, and feminine honor. The honor-as-multifaceted approach has generated much psychological research examining the importance of each honor code across different cultural and social groups. An overview of this research shows that that the different honor codes exert a powerful influence on a variety of group processes, including collective action, in-group identification, the definition of gendered roles within the family, in-group responses to threats to collective honor, intergroup attitudes, and value change within groups. The paper discusses how defining and measuring honor as multifaceted -rather than as an unitary construct- provides a fuller understanding of honor's role in group life.
The aim of this chapter is to present a psychologically oriented, motivational model of honour-based violence (HBV) perpetration. It briefly considers existing theories of HBV and identifies some of their shortcomings, especially their failure to account for some of the empirical evidence concerning HBV perpetration, including violence against men. It then proposes an alternative theoretical framework (the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB); Ajzen, 1991, 2001, 2011) that can be applied to explain individual motivation to commit an act of HBV. It argues that the TPB model accounts more readily than gender-exclusive or culturally based explanations for the perpetration of violence justified by claims of honour.