THE RED FEATHER JOURNALof POSTMODERN CRIMINOLOGY
An International Journal
Crimes of Honor and Shame: Violence against Women in Non-Western and Western Societies
by Sharon K. Araji, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2000 *
*Sharon K. Araji is Professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology, University of Alaska
Anchorage, 3211 Providence Dr., Anchorage, AK 99508. She is also a member of the teaching faculty for the UAA Women's Studies Minor Program and for the Honors Program.
Thanks are extended to Elina Satterfield, who assisted with typing this manuscript.
This paper has several objectives. First, using a review of relevant literature from
traditional and developing countries, the author discusses the historical and cultural connections
between violence against women and the concepts of honor and shame. Second, the author
argues that acts of violence against women in modern Western societies such as the U.S. may be
extensions of the honor system ideology. It is noted that only recently has academic literature
considered any possible connection between honor systems and intimate violence against women
in modern, Western countries. A new way of thinking about males' violence against women in
modern societies that considers a possible honor system linkage is recommended, especially in
view of the fact that many Western societies such as the U.S. are multicultural melting pots.
INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE
An evaluation of literature on intimate violence across societies and history demonstrates that this type of violence is predominately perpetrated by males against females (see Baker, Gregware and Casssidy, 1999; Levinson, 1989; Hoffman, Demo and Edwards, 1994; Gelles and Straus, 1979; Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz, 1980; Pagelow, 1994; Gelles, 1997; Population Reports, 2000; Garcia-Moreno, 1999). Moreover, women are most likely to be victimized by males they know and/or within the homes and families in which they live.
The focus of this paper is on a special type of violence against women that is frequently called "crimes of honor". These types of crimes are tied to the concepts of honor and shame. In this paper the historical and cultural connections among the concepts, honor and shame and, violence against women in traditional and developing countries is reviewed. Further, it is argued that the concepts of honor and shame are related to male-perpetrated violence against women in the U.S. and other modern western countries, although these connections are rarely made. That is, there is little mention of crimes of honor in the academic literature as a type of intimate violence against women in the U.S. or Western countries such as Britain, Canada, and Scotland. When crimes of honor are discussed, it is usually in relation to non-western traditional countries.
Social scientists and feminists refer to male-perpetrator, female-victim violence as gender-based violence because it evolves from females' subordinate social status and the beliefs, norms and social institutions that support a patriarchal structure (Barnett, Miller-Perrin and Perrin, 1997; Population Reports, 2000; Baker, Gregware and Cassidy, 1999). Simply put, patriarchal societies give men power and authority over women and this can be found at the individual, group or institutional level (Anderson, 2000, p. 291). In this paper we view patriarchy as an ideal-type construct (Eshleman, 2000, p. 235) or on continuum, where male power is connected to either a group such as a family, clan or tribe, or where it rests primarily with an individual such as a husband or boyfriend. In discussing Arab societies, Sharabi (1988) uses the term neo-patriarchal to describe the condition where males' power is influenced not only by their personal resources but more importantly by their group membership. Herein, Sharabi's concept of neo-patriarchy is used to denote one end of a patriarchal continuum where a group of individuals are ascribed power over others because of their sex (male) and the group to which they belong (e.g., family, tribe, clan). We label the other end private patriarchy to denote the condition wherein males gain power by virtue of being male and their personal resources. This continuum is depicted in Figure 1.
|(Associated with Non-Western Societies)||
|(Associated with Modern Traditional Western Societies)|
HONOR AND TRADITIONAL SOCIETIES
The conception of honor used to rationalize abuse and killing of women is founded on the idea that one person's honor depends on the behavior of others; behavior that must be controlled. Thus, an essential component of one's self-esteem and community status becomes dependent on the behavior of others. This conception is distinct from the notion that honor depends only on an individual's own behavior. Schneider (1971) suggests that honor, in the context of social relations, can be understood as "the ideology of the power holding group which struggles to define, enlarge and protect its patrimony in a competitive arena" (p.2). This type of honor has been found in many traditional societies which herein are referred to as neo-patriarchal societies.
Status and acceptance in the context of traditional societies rest on the tribe, clan or family honor, an honor that largely depends on the behavior of female members. Women in traditional societies do not have a claim to honor as individuals, separate from their roles within a family, clan or tribal unit. Their actions as individuals, particularly through actual or perceived sexual misconduct, can only bring dishonor to others. However, it is not only sexual misconduct, but any misbehavior on the part of female members that can bring shame and dishonor to the male members or a whole community, lineage or family (Kandiyoti, 1987,
p. 322). To prevent dishonoring from occurring, the honor ideology is enforced by systematic control of women's social and especially sexual behavior. As should be evident, this places females in a very dangerous position in traditional societies.
In studying the concept of honor, we find it is a complex notion that is tied to both a man's "self-worth" and "social-worth". A man's honor is his "claim to pride" which may be reflected in such factors as his family of origin, wealth, and generosity. However, a man's "honor" is tied most closely to the reputations and sexual conduct of women in his family, particularly his mother, sister(s), wife (wives), and daughter(s). Any breach or suspected breach of sexual codes by these women is viewed as a potent assault on the "man's honor", the "family's honor", and/or the "communal fund of honor" associated with a clan, tribe, or other lineage groups (see Schneider, 1971, p. 2; Kandiyoti, 1987, p. 322; Ortner, 1978, p. 19; Yousseff, 1973, p. 329; Lateef, 1992; Ginat, 1979, p. 182; Bates and Rassam, 1983, p. 213-219; Anderson, Seibert and Wagner, 1998, p. 169). Such an assault results in "shame" (Ginat, 1979; Bates and Rassam, 1983, p. 218; Baker, Gregware & Cassidy, 1999). To be rid of "shame" and restore "honor", the woman offender must be punished. Family responses to sexual or alleged sexual misconduct vary from ignoring or minimizing the situation to killing the woman. Decisions may depend on the social and political standing of the family in the community (Bates and Rassam, 1983, p. 218).
Honor has been used as a rationale for control of and violence against women in much of the world. Ortner (1978) documented patterns of family honor in Mediterranean and Latin American peasant societies, among nomadic societies in the Middle East and southwest Asia, among various castes in India, and among Chinese elites. Women in traditional societies that demonstrate neo-patriarchy tend to conform their behavior to the "honor" codes of conduct as a means of self preservation. To avoid punishment, even death, they submit to codes of modesty that require them to veil, live in restrictive or segregated quarters and submit to male control. According to Baker et al. (1999), submitting to male control can even include submissiveness to the husband's mother. Submissiveness in these cultures is considered equivalent to sexual purity.
Men's Control and Abuse of Women
Levinson (1989) reviewed ethnographic literature on preliterate and peasant societies and found three primary reasons that women/wives could deserve beatings. These included (1) sexual jealousy as a result of real or suspected adultery by a wife; (2) for some cause, such as a wife's failure to treat her husband with the degree of respect he expects; and (3) at the male's will; to demonstrate a husband's prerogative as absolute ruler of the household. Levinson (1989) indicated that all three categories involve the notion of exerting control over a woman's sexuality, her performance of wifely duties, and even her life. In most traditional societies, a wife's adultery and a daughter's, sister's or other female family member's premarital sexual activity are viewed as the most serious violations of codes of male and family honor. These norm deviations merit the most severe penalties, which frequently include death.
In traditional societies that demonstrate neo-patriarchy, as will become evident, it is the male members of a female's family that must control her behavior. Further, if punishment, especially death is called for as a means of erasing shame and restoring honor, it will be the males in the female's biological family that must administer the punishment. The source of control and punishment are expected from the female's family not necessarily from a husband if the female is married, although a female may be abused by both her husband and her family.
However, it is not only adultery and premarital sexual activities that are viewed as threatening honor. Rather, as noted above, it can be any behavior that males deem inappropriate. These may involve talking to a strange man, talking back to one's husband, criticizing in-laws, laughing a lot, or failing to fulfill expectations of appropriate feminine behavior (Hegland, 1992; Lateef, 1992). Criss (1993, p. 255) indicates that dishonor can even come when a woman flees an abusive husband. This is illustrated with a case from Turkey wherein it was reported that each time a daughter escaped her abusive husband and fled to her parents' home, they returned her to the violent husband. This was done in the name of preserving family honor.
The Honor-Shame Connection
As previously noted, loss of control of women's behavior results in shame. Thus, if it appears that males or families cannot control their females, especially in the area of sexuality, their honor is threatened and the result is shame (Turner, 1995). Shame can only be redressed and honor restored when the deviant female is punished. In some neo-patriarchal societies, killing a deviant woman acts as a form of purification for the family, and the one who does the killing may even gain respect in the general community (Campbell, 1964, p. 203). In some Arab Muslim countries under Ottoman rule, a killer reportedly would "sprinkle his victim's blood on his clothes and parade through the streets displaying the bloody murder weapon...to increase his honour" (Kressel, 1981, p. 143). He was considered not a murderer, but "one who restored honour" (Kressel, 1981, p. 143).
There is still evidence that countries such as Jordan remain influenced by the Ottoman conceptualization of honor and shame. Araji (2000) reported on the case of a 16-year female who was raped by her brother who also threatened to kill her if she told her family. When the young woman found she was pregnant, she confided in an older brother. When the brother who perpetrated the rape learned this, he tried to kill his sister by cutting her wrists, but failed. Yet another brother revealed to police that his family and relatives then urged him to kill his sister to cleanse the family's honor. With a kitchen knife he stabbed his sister to death. Neighbors reported that relatives who had gathered to witness the event cheered and praised the young murderer when he rushed from the house, knife in hand, shouting that "he had cleansed the family's honor."
Ginat (1979) reports that in the Arab language one can find two distinct words for honor. These words reveal that a man can experience dishonor from (1) his own actions, and (2) from the actions of his female relatives. We discuss the second type of dishonor and then return of the first.
If a woman brings shame to the family, the male is expected to respond appropriately. If he does not, he adds to the shame because he is not behaving in a masculine manner. Baker et al. (1999) notes that this view is consistent with Kandiyoti's (1987) observation that femininity in an Islamic society is an ascribed status whereas masculinity is an achieved status; "one that is never permanently achieved, because the danger of being unmanned is ever present," particularly through female misbehavior (p.327).
Campbell, (1964) notes that the need to dispel shame is important in non-Arab societies as well. In a Greek mountain community study she found that no action, or action not taken quickly enough, can increase damage to the family's honor. To illustrate the necessity of response, Ginat (1979) recounts a case involving a Jewish family from Yemen. Herein, a young wife would not end an extramarital affair so her husband publicly criticized the father for not controlling his daughter. The father, a Rabbi, had already been faced with disapproval from his congregation for not controlling his daughter's behavior. When he was publicly criticized for his inaction he had to respond. He did, by strangling his daughter.
Turning to how males can dishonor their families, we find that a double standard usually exists with respect to how males' and females' behaviors are viewed and what the consequences are. Take for example a case from Jordan. A young woman was killed by her father because she had accepted the advances of her lover. The lover was not seen as guilty, because the woman had accepted his advances. The father was sentenced to only six days in prison for the murder of his daughter (Araji, 2000).
In some households in India, a daughter who becomes pre-maritally pregnant may be punished with ostracism or death if she cannot be hastily married. In contrast, a son, by getting a reputation for stealing or gambling may bring dishonor, yet no serious consequences from the family result (Kolenda, 1993).
Across societies, men who seduce unmarried women or wives may be held accountable in various ways. They may be killed for adultery, beaten for compromising a virgin's reputation, forced to marry a disgraced unmarried woman, or financially settle with the woman's family. In general, however, men as compared to women more easily escape negative sanctions, especially severe sanctions. Furthermore, any punishment males receive does not decrease the punishment administered to the woman, if both a man and woman are involved.
THE COMMUNITY'S ROLE IN CONTROL AND ABUSE OF WOMEN
As suggested by the Jewish case study above, the community's opinion can play an important role in the shame element of family honor. Some researchers have documented that in traditional societies honor killings are likely only if the transgression becomes public (Ginat, 1979; Kressel, 1981). If the transgression remains hidden, the guilty female may not face any punishment. Once the transgression is public, however, it can negatively affect the family's standing in the community and action will have to be taken by the male family members. That is, once the family is shamed, honor must be restored.
A number of case studies suggests that the normative claim of honor often is mixed with social, economic, or political motives (Bates and Rassam, 1983, p. 218). A family that maintains strict control of its women benefits from a good reputation in the community. Campbell (1964) reports that in a Greek mountain community, honor was viewed as equal with wealth and strength as family resources. In India, Derne (1994, p. 221) notes that family honor is critical to making good marriages for all of the young women in a family, because males carefully evaluate the family of a potential bride by examining whether the family's women behave properly. So a family's honor may be enhanced by punishing or even murdering a deviant female family member for suspected or actual deviant behavior. In fact, it may not just maintain a family's social status, but improve it (Kressel, 1981, p. 151).
In traditional honor systems, a husband who suspects or knows his wife has dishonored him is generally not the one expected to murder her, if that is what the expected punishment should be. Kressel (1981) indicates that sexual jealousy is not a sufficient reason for honor killings to occur, although it may justify beatings. A husband's feelings of jealousy or hurt pride is not viewed as a cause to murder his wife because "the individual motivation of the betrayed party is secondary" (p. 143). Instead, the wife's family of origin must bear the responsibility for punishing her because her actions have brought shame on them. Schneider (1971, p.21) reports that in cases of adultery in Mediterranean societies, the husband (unless he is a parallel cousin) simply initiates divorce proceedings and tries to recover payments of bride wealth, while the wife's brothers and cousins are expected to avenge the honor of their family.
In a study of Arab Muslim society, those who punish a woman are most often brothers, followed by fathers, and then the fathers' brothers and their sons. Women seldom participate in the process, although they may help set up the punishment situation or keep it a secret (Kressel, 1981). The fact that dishonor can undermine a family's economic and marital prospects could explain why other women in the family do not interfere with the abuse or murder of a daughter or sister who violates community norms. Mothers may be anxious to protect the reputation of their husbands and families for the sake of sons who, in time, might have to provide for their (the mothers') future well-being. This gives these women a vested interest in maintaining the status quo or community honor codes (Lateef, 1992).
HONOR, SHAME AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN WESTERN MODERNIZING SOCIETIES
As societies modernize, what happens to the traditional honor systems and their relationship to crimes of honor? Bates and Rassam (1983, p. 215) indicate that one outcome of the "honor and shame" belief system is that male-female interaction is always viewed as potentially disruptive because it may call into question a man's ability to control or protect a women for whom he is culturally responsible; i.e., call into question his "honor" (also see Baker et. al., 1999; Anderson et. al., 1998). Western customs such as "romantic love" are seen as particularly threatening because they challenge a man's control as well as the family's reputation. In discussing the honor system in Islamic countries, Anderson et. al. (1998) suggest in a world dominated by rapid social change, many Muslim men may view the home as their last bastion of male authority. A resulting sense of helplessness may "lead to a retrenchment of a miniature polity within the home" (p. 169).
Mernissi (1975) argues, based on her analysis of male-female interactions in Morocco, that sexual equality threatens Islam and the "honor" of males. She discusses how the desegregation of the sexes violates Islam's ideology on women's position in the social order; that women should be under the authority of fathers, brothers or husbands.
As Middle Eastern and other non-Western developing countries are increasingly exposed to Western culture through television, music, clothes, and travel, the clash between traditional and modern ideas may serve to increase family violence, especially abuse of women. Whether honor crimes in these countries are actually increasing cannot be ascertained at this time. However, it is clear that crimes of honor against woman in the developing country of Jordan continue. In the Winter, 1999, issue of WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL NETWORK NEWS it was reported that of the approximate 100 murders in Jordan each year, one-third were honor killings. Further, in this same issue it was reported that in Amman, Jordan's women's prison, over one fourth of the 190 inmates were incarcerated to protect them from honor crimes.
Most recently, in a "Sixty Minutes" interview (ABC, Sunday, April 2, 2000), the new Jordanian queen, H.M. Queen Rania, acknowledged that honor crimes are still taking place in Jordan. She linked most of these to extreme conservatives who continue to view female acts associated with "honor and shame" as issues to be dealt with by the family and/or tribe, rather that within the domain of the judicial system. Asma Carter, an attorney in Amman, Jordan shared these concerns as a guest on the Washington D.C., Diane Rehm public radio program on honor killings (June 23, 1999). She indicated that some families may have males in the family who are under the age of 18 conduct the honor killings. This serves as a means of escaping legal prosecution or getting lighter sentences than would be the case for adults. On the other hand, families may simply conceal honor killings by making them look like suicides (Araji 2000). These cases clearly indicate that just because societies develop and modernize, all groups in societies do not give up traditions that relate to honor, shame and violence against woman.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN MODERN WESTERN SOCIETIES: THE HONOR-SHAME CONNECTION
In this section of the paper, we explore the two dimensions of the honor concept--control and shame--to demonstrate how the honor system may operate in violent acts against women in Western countries such as the U.S. Much of this thinking is borrowed from Baker et al. (1999), who are among the few who have attempted to demonstrate the linkage of honor systems to intimate violence in modern Western societies.
Honor Systems: The Control of Women Dimension in Violence Against Women in Modern Western Societies
Baker et al. (1999) indicate that the concept of honor goes through a transformation in its application to the West. Nevertheless, it can still be understood as an ideology held by those who seek patriarchal power in a competitive arena by dictating and controlling women's behavior. Here, Baker et al. (1999) argue, the competitive arena is the female's demand for equality. As females acquire more rights and freedoms males' power and control is challenged. This is consistent with what Bates and Rassam (1983) and Mernissi (1975) reported happening in developing Middle Eastern countries. They predicted that the increasing exposure to Western culture that challenges males' and families' control of females and hence, their honor, could lead to increased violence against women.
In contrast to traditional societies where the type of patriarchy is what Scharabi (1988) calls neo-patriarchy, the responsibility of control in modern Western countries shifts from male members of a woman's biological family to her male intimate partner. There are several possible reasons for this. As societies modernize, there is movement away from the extended toward the nuclear family. In this situation the male is left on his own to maintain control, but because the society remains patriarchal, the privilege and responsibility of controlling females rest with him. This has been a common attitude in countries such as the United States whose legal traditions have been derived from English common law. Under common law, woman were considered the property of men, and violence was an accepted method for men to maintain control of women. Englishmen followed the "rule of thumb law" that restricted the size of a stick with which they could beat their wives to one that was no thicker than a man's thumb (Wallace, 1999, p. 177).
Another explanation for the shift in the responsibility for control away from the females' family, clan or tribe to the individual male, is the emphasis on individualism in capitalistic countries such as the United States. The emphasis on individualism is compatible with the nuclear family, which resides in a private rather than communal sphere. In fact, it is the combination of individualism, patriarchal societies and the privacy of the home, that Western feminists and those involved with the study of domestic violence have long argued kept the extent of such violence hidden in modern Western societies. These social conditions led to the idea that the home is a man's castle and what goes on behind closed doors is no one else's business (see Pizzey, 1974). These conditions and attitudes are quite different when compared to traditional neo-patriarchal societies where control of women was everyone's business. However, for women, the outcomes for any suspected or real violations of patriarchal norms are similar in both societies. The differences are that in Western societies the husband, boyfriend or male partner is the one who administers the complete range of abusive actions including murder. In traditional societies, acts of punishment are considered the responsibility of the female's biological family.
An interesting comparison between traditional and modern Western societies is that in traditional societies women's suspected or actual transgressions may not be punished if they are not made public. As noted earlier in this paper, it is the public exposure wherein the family's honor, social or political status is threatened that serves as the impetus for punishment, especially if those transgressions call for death of the offending female. In Western societies women are abused, even murdered, for alleged or actual transgressions that are only known privately. This is because in modern Western societies social norms and laws are against abusing and killing of family members. Public knowledge of such behavior can harm, not enhance the social, political or honor accorded the male and/or his nuclear family. In fact, unlike most traditional societies where males could wear their abuses, even killing of females as a "badge of honor", such behavior in modern Western societies can lead to severe consequences. These can include loss of jobs, jail, prison or death. In spite of these potential threats of punishment, males continue to abuse, stalk and even kill their girl friends, wives, and intimate partners. Why? Every article and book on domestic violence argues that it is because of patriarchy -- the right and need for males to have power and control over women. The idea that such abuses and murders may be related to honor systems is never mentioned.
Honor Systems: The Shame Dimension in Violence Against Women in Western Societies
At the individual level, the honor system can be viewed as a belief system wherein men believe they are entitled to dominance over woman. Bowker (1985, p. 6), using a social psychological explanation for wife abuse, argues that men who believe they are entitled to dominance and achieve it, feel psychologically gratified. Those who are denied or perceive they are denied, experience a feeling of deprivation which can set the stage for violence. As noted above, most Western explanations of domestic violence stop here, arguing that male's violence against intimate female partners stems from an expectation or a desire for "power and control". Baker et al. (1999) content that the ultimate explanation for the violence, viewed from an honor system perspective, is that men whose control is threatened will use violence to avoid shame to restore their sense of honor.
Baker et at. (1999) note that it has only been recently that the concept of shame has generated a renewed interest as an important explanatory variable for human behavior, and even more recently has there been any attempt to apply it to the area of domestic violence. Some researchers such as Lansky (1995) and Retzinger (1991) have used it to explain findings such as the correlation between batterers' anger and rage and feelings of anxiety and humiliation.
While shame is a learned feeling in both traditional and Western societies, because of the structural differences in these societies, the antecedents and consequences of shame vary. In traditional societies, shame is viewed as an assault on honor and came from public exposure of a female's alleged or actual misconduct. Within Western societies with the emphasis on individualism and privacy, the shame referent may rest only in a learned memory or belief system that males are dominant and females are submissive and must be controlled. If males cannot control females, this brings about shame. A remedy to this feeling is to punish the deviant female for not being submissive.
Markos (1995) argues that within the Western pattern of increased distance from community norms, a male's shame can become internalized and self producing. Scheff (1995) indicates that in Western societies a man becomes both the actor and the social witness to his actions. In such a dual role, he can become caught in a cycle of being ashamed, so that he becomes angry, and angry that he is ashamed. Morkos (1995) suggests this leads to increased feelings of humiliation, irrationality and ultimately violence against women. Baker et al. (1999) notes that "in the West, the individual man acts alone; he is both judge and executioner, responding to feelings of wounded pride and violated identity. Without any institutional checks, he may feel free to act outside larger group norms and even resort to extremely cruel methods of murder" (p. 179). They continue, by saying that the "individual man may violate larger group norms precisely because he feels that honor is a personal matter, his right as an individual standing alone against society. This notion of honor carries with it a willingness to face adversity--including negative legal sanctions on domestic violence--and this may mitigate against social interventions. After all, being an individual "true to oneself" in the face of adversity is itself a mark of honor" (p. 179).
WOMEN AND THE CONCEPT OF SHAME
Most discussions about the role of shame in cases of intimate violence have focused on how it can serve as an impetus for male violence against women. In neo-patriarchal societies any discussion of women's shame was not important because shame was only considered in the context of how females' misbehavior could cause males and families shame. How women felt about themselves or their families was not deemed important. However, in Western societies wherein the emphasis is on individualism, privacy and the nuclear family, the social norm is that if women find themselves in abusive relationships they "should leave" or they "should "try harder to make their marriages work". With respect to the concept of shame, they are in a no-win situation. If they leave, especially if they have children, they may be made to feel guilty or ashamed because they didn't try harder. However, if they stay and the abuse continues they may be shamed or made to feel guilty because they didn't leave. While the concept of shame may be absent in discussions of males' intimate violence against their female partners in modern societies, it is certainly not absent from the stories of women who have kept abusive situations secret, stayed in the abusive relationships because they were ashamed to tell anyone what was happening, or who believed the abuse was their fault and felt ashamed. In Western societies, we must not only consider the role that shame plays in males' patterns of violent acts, but the role it plays in keeping women in abusive relationships.
CRIMES OF HONOR AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: A COMPARISON OF TRADITIONAL AND WESTERNIZED SOCIETIES
Honor patterns involving violence against women vary between traditional and Western societies such as the United States, Canada and Britain. In traditional societies crimes of honor were accepted and justified by communities; they were viewed as a needed aspect of the honor culture. Enforcers of the honor system, as we have seen, enjoyed community support, encouragement, and sometimes praise and increased social standing. In contrast, in the Western world the larger community does not offer support for abuse and murder, at least not openly. Rather, abuse and murder of female intimates may result in loss of jobs, fines, jail, prison or even death. Thus, any enforcement of the honor system is most likely to be the sole responsibility of the male intimate--husband, boyfriend, or live-in partner. As Anderson et al. (1998) noted, as societies modernize and males lose many of the rights, responsibilities and status they were ascribed, they may withdraw to their own homes where they set themselves up as the sole ruler. In this sense, they at least have control over their honor in their own home, and as long as it remains private, they maintain control without negative consequences.
In the United States there is some recent acknowledgement that crimes of honor against women are taking place and showing up in the court systems (20/20 Downtown, May 4, 2000). These crimes are attributed to recent immigrants who come from societies where crimes of honor remain a part of the culture. When these immigrants enter the United Stated, they tend to live in families or communities that continue to practice the cultural heritages brought with the various cultural groups. This should not come as a great surprise to those who study socialization and culture. That is, just because people physically move from one place to another does not mean they leave their cultural beliefs, values, norms and behaviors behind. What is surprising is that it has taken us so long to even suggest there could be a link between honor systems and intimate violence against women in Western societies. After all, countries like the United States are increasingly becoming multicultural nations made up of many groups who come from societies where honor systems continue to be an integral part of the culture--e.g., Latin America, the Middle East, Mediterranean countries, India, Pakistan, etc. It is time to take a closer look at the possible connection between honor systems and male violence against women in modern Western societies.
This paper has demonstrated that male and/or family honor depends on controlling women's behavior. It is argued that the honor cultural belief system legitimizes abuse, even murder of women, both for violations of honor codes in traditional non-Western and modernizing Western societies. Honor systems legitimize patriarchy, whether it is neo-patriarchy or private patriarchy. These systems define the public sphere of life as dangerous or even off-limits to females.
Women who are raised in societies with strict and clearly defined codes of honor that emphasize female purity accept their subordinate status in society: it may be their only means of avoiding abuse or death. Hence, a system of honor with the privileges of using violence to control women may seldom be employed, because women tend to control themselves. In contrast, women raised in Western societies may inadvertently violate unspoken honor codes which are only understood by their male intimates. That is, a women may be beaten if dinner is late, if she refuses to have sex, if she wears the wrong color shoes, etc. She never knows what will next lead to abuse because the codes of honor are only known to her abuser.
In conclusion, it is the position taken in this paper that while honor has not been considered an overt explanation for violence against women in modern Western societies such as the United States, its import as a possible explanatory variable should not be negated. Future research on intimate violence should consider the importance of honor systems to explaining antecedents and consequences of male violence against women in intimate relationships in Western countries.
1. In Western societies the concepts of shame and honor have been replaced by terms such as embarrassment, loss of reputation or face, or an assault on self respect, self esteem, identity, etc. In this transition, the reference to honor systems and shame have been lost.
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