Thursday, January 10, 2013

Study on ‘Honour Killings’ in Germany: Males are also killed

In a article from August 8, 2011 titled “German Justice Slammed in Honour Killing Study,” author Johannes Korge writes about the results of a recent study which investigated the demographics of honour killings. An honor killing is the practice of male family members (father, brother, uncle, etc.) murdering a female member of their family after she has “dishonoured” her family by dating a male of a different ethnicity, rejecting traditional clothing for “western” attire, separating from her husband, or being the survivor of rape. The study was conducted by the Max Plank Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law. Criminologists Dietrich Oberwrittler and Julia Kasset researched 78 cases of honour killings perpetrated in Germany from 1996 through 2005. This is the most expansive German study to date conducted which investigates honour killings. Most of the perpetrators (76 out of 122) were Turkish, with the rest from Arab states (no numbers given) and Yugoslavia (also, no numbers given), 7.6 percent of the perpetrators held German citizenship.

            This article shares a few points in common with Radhika Parameswaran’s paper entitled, “Coverage of ‘Bride Burning’ in the Dallas Observer: a Cultural Analysis of the ‘Other.’” Parameswaran discusses how Western media portrays women from other nations, particularly those from poorer nations, as being helpless, hopeless, and destined for such horrible fates as abuse and ritualized murder. “Othering” arose during the era of Colonialism, when Western countries, such as Germany, Britain, and Spain exploited the resources of the lands they invaded and de-humanized the native population. The de-humanization process took many forms, non-the least of which was the exaggeration of cultural differences in order to make Westerners out to appear “civilized and orderly” whilst presenting natives as “violent and chaotic.” The natives were perceived as “barbaric” and “heathen,” thus justifying, in the eyes of the colonial power, the “obligation” to impose Western religion (Catholicism) and Western social values and customs onto the native populations. In this manner, the Western powers saw themselves as “civilizing” an “inferior” culture. This mind-set of “us” and “them” permeates Western media and society to this day and can be seen in how the media portrays groups or individuals from post-colonial countries as “violent and uncivilized,” among other stereotypes.

            The Spiegel article has the subtitle, ‘What drives families to commit ‘honour killings?’ Who are the killers and where do they come from? A new study commissioned by the German police has found that the killers are almost always first-generation immigrants from poor backgrounds, that cases aren’t increasing and that courts are making mistakes in their handling of them.” This emphasis on “poor and foreign” coincides with the phenomena of “othering.” It is told from the point-of-view of a German and no Turkish voices, family members of murder victims, community representatives, or other are interviewed in the article.  This article doesn’t make any mention of where teenage girls or women who find themselves in these abusive family environments can turn for help. There are no agencies, support groups, or protective services listed. Is there a safe place in public schools for teenage girls who feel threatened? What laws are in place in Germany to protect these girls and women from these types of family situations? If a young girl or woman who is in this kind of environment were to read this article, she wouldn’t find any information as to what her rights are under German law or what options are open to her. On a positive note, Oberwrittler makes it clear that “The ‘honor killing’ is in no way typical for the Turkish community in Germany.” This statement serves to prevent stereotyping of the Turkish community living in Germany. The article does bring up an important and unexpected fact; that 43.1 percent of those murdered in honour killings were male. These males were found to be the friend or lover of the murdered woman. This is an important development since, up until this study, it was believed that only females were killed under these circumstances. This article does not mention where the study is published or give a link to the study. It would be useful to have this information for those who wish to look into this matter in more detail.


Works Cited

“German Justice Slammed in Honor Killing Study.” spiegel magazine 


Parameswaran, R, “Coverage of ‘Bride Burning’ in the Dallas Observer: A Cultural Analysis of the            ‘Other.’” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, 1996

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