Eight months ago, Asma Khader helped to set up a human rights group called the National Campaign for Ending So-Called Honor Crimes in Jordan. Yesterday, the group announced a new public campaign to reverse a law that assigns little or no punishment to the purveyors of so-called "honor crimes."
A beating, murder, rape, or other violent attack on a woman is defined as a "honor" crime when it is committed by a man who claims to have committed the crime in an effort to restore his family's reputation. For instance, women who date, marry, or divorce without the blessing of their families may be seen as deserving victims. Thus, the punishment for these crimes is lax. Men who claim to have murdered their sisters, cousins, aunts or mothers in an attempt to restore family honor may be jailed for as little as three months.
Police records indicate that at least 160 women, most of whom were teenagers at the time of their death, were the victims of "honor" crimes. Hundreds more are beaten, are forced to flee their families, or are confined to their homes.
A new law which would assign harsher punishments to purveyors of "honor crimes" will be debated by Jordan's parliament this November. Khader explained that while the law leaves much to be desired, it would constitute a step in the right direction. "At least we are able to talk about it now," she said. "It was a big taboo."