Saturday, April 11, 2009

'Honour': Crimes, paradigms, and violence against women, edited by Lynn Welchman and Sara Hossain

I have read much of the introductory and theoretical chapters of this book, which concerns so-called "crimes of honor" against nonconforming women, and which is packed full of information and insight. I was particularly struck by the conclusion of an article by Purna Sen, "'Crimes of honour,' value and meaning." Sen objects to one common way that "honor killings" and "crimes of honor" are discussed, especially when the crimes take place in Islamic countries or communities. Sen find it less than useful to contrast the "culture" of the "West" or the "international community" with the "culture" of a criticized community:
Making culture the divisor also renders those who inhabit the culture under scrutiny problematic per se, and suggests that their salvation lies in abandoning this culture and, by implication, adopting another. Almost invariably that Salvation is Western, Judeo-Christian culture. Is this really the answer? If the problem were Islam, or Islamic culture, it might be -- but then only if Western culture and religion had eliminated violence against women. If violence against women exists in the cultures that criticise the "other," as it clearly does, then existing cultural practices do not determine the safety women, as in no culture are women assured freedom from violence.

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