Proposed language in a 2013 budget bill before Congress could direct the Justice Department to study the prevalence of honor killings and similar violence in America for the first time.
The language, offered by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., also seeks recommendations for police and social workers on how to handle such cases. It is expected to pass, writes Nina Shea.
Congress passed legislation last week dealing with violence against women, but the bill contained no reference to honor crimes, which anecdotal evidence suggests is an increasing problem among Muslim Americans.
CBS and CNN each reported on the problem earlier this year, but the issue rarely receives an open discussion.
Honor violence can come from parents who perceive their daughters are becoming too westernized or in other ways shaming the family image. There's been a reluctance to confront the problem due to a misplaced cultural deference. It's one reason there's no sense of scope to the problem.
"Because it does not fit easily into other patterns of domestic violence, honor violence needs to be explicitly addressed in any law aimed at protecting women from violence," writes Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom. "Though the Senate's Violence Against Women bill mentions 'domestic violence' 38 times, and makes provisions for such esoteric subsets of domestic violence as those committed by non-Native Americans on Native American reservations, it fails to mention honor violence even once. Amidst its generous funding for a panoply of feminist causes, it does not provide a single dollar toward studying or preventing this unique and growing crime pattern."
She points to an Amnesty International report which defines honor violence as "deeply rooted belief that women are objects and commodities, not human beings entitled to dignity and rights equal to those of men. Women are considered the property of male relatives and are seen to embody the honor of the men to whom they 'belong'. Women's bodies are considered the repositories of family honor."
For more, see the report here.