Yesterday in Kingston Mohammad Shafia took the stand to deny that he had murdered his first wife and three teen-aged daughters.  He told the court he ran a happy household.  The prosecutor told him flatly that he was a liar.

This dreadful trial in Kingston raises the whole issue of “honour” killings.  The United Nations reports that 5000 women a year are murdered in this fashion. The fact is that certain ethnic societies simply do not believe that women are equal to men.  Girls and women are annihilated in the name of family, religion, as a cultural prerogative and because there is some support within their community for what, in one gruesome phrase is called “washing shame with blood.” Testimony in Kingston suggests that the girls “Westernized” behaviour had outraged their father.

The Kingston case is reminiscent of  one in England with the death of  20-year-old Banaz Mahmod.  When Mahmod left the violent husband her family had forced her to marry for a man she loved, her father and uncle ordered her death. She was raped, tortured, and strangled in her parents’ home in London.

It would seem that in the Kingston case, social agencies dropped the ball.  The girls cried out for help, even ran away from home, but nothing much was done to ensure their safety.  One thing should nolt be done.  Schools should not phone parents when notifying them will put the young person in still more danger.

One expert says there should “honour”  base shelters for victims of this kind lof violence.  They should not be put in ordinary shelters because they get lonely and depressed and end up going back to family, where they run the risk of being killed.

Women’s rights are human rights.  What eventually stops honour violence or any other violence against women is the insistence on this simple truth.

Should immigrants from some ethnic groups – like Afghans, Pakistanis and Kurds – be warned against “honour” killings when they enter the country?

Can anything be done about “honour” killings?

What do you think?


  1. 1
    Jim Says:

    Well let’s start with having the question listed on their immigration application – “Do you believe in honour killings?” Being an honourable man, he should answer the question truthfully.

  2. 2

    Right on!
    There must be ways to evaluate a person’s devoutness to their culture.
    Immigrants should be screened carefully, because so many cultures have practices that are against the law here. Period. Like genital mutilation, mercy killings, honour killings or any other kinds of killings or sacrifices or arranged marriages. If an immigrant has no idea what women’s rights mean…nix!
    Fact of the matter- they will never integrate, if they don’t have the fundamentals in common with our society.
    I hope that the Shafia crew each get 25 years for each murder.
    That was a massacre.
    PS: Honourable??? 1400 immigrants just pleaded no contest and have dropped their applications for entry/citizenship in Canada. It was past the time to crack down and try to develop policies that “honour” our country and citizens.

  3. 3

    I`m not sure how you can tell them to dump things so easily. Simply inform them that we have laws here,not customs. And those laws mean that a person is protected from harm,and that there are no exceptions. Also,that their religion has to conform with those laws,untill those laws are changed.

    Show them the advantges of living in a free society,where we can make these choices without fear of mayhem.

  4. 4

    I am, pretty sure that immigrants are fully informed of the laws here.
    Many recent events have come to light, which prove that our laws are not being obeyed or respected.
    I understand that a lifetime culture, even of oppression, is not easily set aside and since we promote religious freedom, customs are pursued under that guise.
    Not everyone understands freedom and that is not a concept that we grasp!
    I am fully in agreement with immigration. We need to be more selective.
    I don’t like a lot of what I see.

  5. 5
    Neil McKenty Says:

    It seems to me there is a danger of profiling – rejecting people hjust because they are of a certain background or colour.

  6. 6

    You are right, Neil. There is a danger of profiling, but profiling can be a positive thing.
    Profiling has become a dirty word, but when boarding an airplane, I am looking around at my fellow passengers and not too concerned with the Grand mamas.
    I wouldn’t suggest that we reject people because of their background (culture or religion) or colour. However, we should ask more questions, and take a closer look at their life style, beliefs and answers to our questions.
    I used to be far more liberal. I didn’t entertain the idea that some people don’t respond to freedom as we know it. A woman, in a burqua covering a battered, bruised body and refusing to press charges, is a big concern!
    I guess I am getting cynical.

  7. 7
    John Says:

    What happened in Kingston is a tragedy of immense proportions, but let’s remember that in terms of what happens on Canadian soil, it is an isolated incident.

    Robert Pickton was not from another culture.

    Marc Lepine was not a religious fanatic.

    Is the Catholic Church’s treatment of women any different than that of any other religious sect?

    Look at how women are treated in an organization such as the RCMP.

    Recenttly a young lady from our hometown produced

  8. 8
    John Says:

    a film in memory of the 14 women killed in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. It’s quite powerful. I hope folks will take a moment to watch at least part of it.

  9. 9
    Jim Says:

    If one reads the Qur’an one will notice that it speaks better of women than the Jewish or Christian manuscripts. I noticed that earlier today the Leading Arab Holy men in Canada have renounced ‘honour’? murders and are getting together to do something about it.

  10. 10

    Thanks John, I needed that reminder.
    Like I said…I’m cynical.
    I saw that movie…very moving.

  11. 11
    Neil McKenty Says:


    “December 6” is a moving statement for women’s equality. thanks for sharing it with us. As for the Catholic church, it is one of the most misogynist institutions on the face of the earth.

  12. 12
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    littlepatti, re: your first post. I’m with you on everything except where you said that “arranged marriage” is “against the law” on Canada.

    It is NOT against the law in Canada.

    Perhaps you are confusing “forced marriage” with “arranged marriage” which is still the norm in places like India where it works quite well, thank you very much (indeed, it works a hell of a hot better than the West’s “love marriages” if divorce rates are the measuring rod).

    And please note that arranged marriages were even common in our culture 150 years ago.

  13. 13

    You are right Tony. I was actually referring to a forced marriage, and didn’t find the right word to describe it.
    It’s quite disturbing that so many marriages are failing. I celebrated my 50th in August. There are so few of us…Maybe marriage , and long term commitment are old fashioned and should be rethought. Here we are, trying to fit the Gay community under the marriage umbrella, when in fact we should be releasing everyone else.
    It’s interesting that here in Quebec, a previously Catholic province, common law unions are the highest in Canada.
    Having said that, the law has not caught up yet and common law partners are not protected.
    What do you think?

  14. 14

    Neil: “Misogynist”. I had to look the word up, I hadn’t heard it for so long…
    Interesting description of the Catholic church. I wonder if modern priests would admit that.

  15. 15
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    I don’t get the “common law” thing. If you want the benefits and everything else that comes with marriage, then that’s the arrangement that people should go for.

  16. 16

    I don’t think many young people see any “benefits” of marriage. They can be really stuck, if they separate or die. They don’t realize that common law is recognized as another status except for legal property.
    Was it you who once suggested that marriage should be a renewable or terminable contract every five years?

  17. 17
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    No, wasn’t me.

  18. 18

    Wasn’t me, either, Patti, although it sounds like a good idea… 😉

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