The Hand of Law and Art .. Where Does It Turn When It Comes to “Honor” issues?
The lives of women and girls in our societies are under constant threat because of the so-called concept of “honor”, which the loss, for any reason, costs the life of the victim itself.
We live in societies that consider women and girls to be responsible for the illusion of “family honor.”
Therefore, they often pay with their lives for this “myth”.
In these lines, we are trying to embark on a journey that includes multiple aspects of this issue.
We will deal with it on the realistic, technical, and legal level, which often grants the criminal the right and innocence, because he “defended his honor”!
The role of Gender in The Arrangement of Social Structure
Nekla Mora, a professor of journalism at Atatürk University, said in her research on “honor” crimes that “the concept of gender plays a clear role in arranging the social structure.”
He notes that societies are usually arranged with a patriarchal hierarchy or structure, operating on the basis that men are superior.
Patriarchal structures prevail inversely with the civilized level of society, especially in societies where monotheistic religions are practiced.
As for the realization that men are “seed” and women are “soil,” it has turned women into mere bearers and guardians of the continuity of the human race.
This perception affected human relations to a large extent, and the social and legal rules that are formed to maintain social order and are practiced within the framework of this perception.
The concept of “honor” killings is a particular form of killing women and girls.
What is the definition of an “honor” crime?
“Honor” crime is defined as a crime of gender-based violence committed by one or more family members, claiming to preserve their “honor and wash away their shame.”
And if the cultural norms and practices that govern our lives allow men to control the destinies of women and girls in the family, what reinforces their continued spread is also the legal practices related to these crimes.
Laws support the practice of killing women under the pretext of “honor,” and the perpetrators of the crimes are impunity.
In our Arab societies, these crimes occur as a result of the concept of preserving the “virginity” of the girl, which has no scientific truth.
This concept refers to power relations, in which the interests of women are subject to those of men.
These relationships take multiple forms, the basis of which is based on sex and biological sexual differences, according to the book “Feminism and Post-Feminism” by Sarah Gamble.
While a paper titled “Honor crimes: review and proposed definition” stated in its introduction, violence against women has become, over the years, an issue of great concern.
This is due to the fact that women all over the world are exposed to many forms of domestic and sexual violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and many others.
The research also defines violence against women, which falls under what is called “protecting family honor,” as:
Violence motivated by “honor”, perpetrated mostly by male relatives, and in societies based on the concept of “honor”, where men are recognized as the heads of the family, and defenders of its honor against any behavior deemed shameful or insulting.
At the same time, women are considered the property of men and become a symbol of their honor and that of the family.
“Honor” includes the sexual and familial roles assigned to women, as indicated by cultural norms and traditions.
Drama, Cinema and Establishing the Concept of Crying Over Spilled Milk
The hero often seduces the girl with love, sometimes through trickery or coercion. And after completing what is meant, it is the turn of scenes of remorse, sadness and crying.
In the old movies, the scene usually ended with heavy rain, thunder and lightning!
The movie “My Girls and I” is one example of this type of film.
In the film, the hero steps into the bedroom carrying his victim, and steps on a flower on the ground.
The same scene was repeated in the movie “The Three of Them Love Her.” It is a clear symbolism indicating the end of the life of the flower/girl after losing her “virginity”.
In the series “The Family”, the heroine – Laila Elwi – spends nights crying and refuses to marry a man who loves her.
The reason is that she lost her virginity at the hands of a young man previously, justifying that she did not deserve to live after what happened.
Then she throws herself in the hands of an extremist and is desperate for her life.
And another heroine cuts the arteries on her arms, and another is killed by her family. All perceptions pour into the same masculine meaning!
That life has ended, or will end, with the loss of “honor,” which is chiefly connected with “virginity.”
Thus, dozens of scenes were enshrined in the minds of the audience, that the end of life comes with the loss of a few drops of blood.
Another normalization with this type of violence appeared in a scene from the series “A Window of Destiny.”
As the hero’s sister loses her virginity, her fate is to succumb to grief and attempt suicide, but she is saved.
After that, she stays in her room, and stops her graduate studies. She accepts the hand of one of her poor relatives, who does not have the same level of education as her!
This is what the writer chose for her! It was chosen by almost all writers.
They chose her flogging, censure, and death as the natural consequence of a breach of any of their “honor” clauses.
Dramatic and Cinematic Scenes that Enshrined the Concept of “Honor”
In the movie “My Girls and I,” for example, the girl dies at the end, while the perpetrator enjoys his life.
And in the movie “Life is Extreme Pleasure,” the girl who loved a married man cries over what was lost. While the husband regrets and returns to his wife, who forgives him.
Then they dance in the last scene of the movie. The girl’s fate remains unknown, as if she was the culprit.
As for the movie “The Three of Them Love Her”, the heroine stands behind a tree in a dark corner. She wears black clothes, to watch from afar as her lover marries her best friend.
After her boss assaulted her, she decided she didn’t deserve life or love. So she plotted to get rid of her lover.
And she proceeded in her behavior by saying that he did not deserve her after what happened. But what happened besides losing some blood on a mattress!
All these details bring us to the vision of the creator, director/author, of this incident at that time. And that the concept of sexual assault was not present in the first place.
While cinema is organically linked to reality, reality is one of cinema’s references.
Ignoring this fact causes some films to lose their logical coherence.
Marcel Martin says: “Each film image is, then, in the present, past, and possible future, nothing but the product of a personal judgment in the face of some filmic means of expression, which teaches us to read its meaning.”
When analyzing all the aforementioned scenes, we find that they are mainly devoted to maximizing the concept of preserving “honor.”
The judgment of girls and women at the end of their lives was reinforced, often through murder by a male member of their family, or suicide to get rid of feelings of guilt.
The hand of The Law .. Where Is It Between the Two Sides of The Conflict?
In many Arab countries, anyone who kills a female relative on the pretext of “honor” is exempt from punishment.
For example, Article 153 of the Kuwaiti Penal Code distinguishes between punishment for men and women in the case of killing under what is called “honor.”
Kuwaiti law also allows for a murderer to be punished with only a fine, not necessarily imprisonment.
The article stipulates that “a person who kills his wife, daughter, mother, or sister in the act of having sex with a man will be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 years, or a fine not exceeding 45 dollars, or both.”
In Egypt, Professor of Criminal Law Counselor Shukri Al-Daqqaq revealed, in a research paper he prepared, the use of Article 17 of the Egyptian Penal Code in cases of killing under the pretext of “honor.”
And he stated in it: “Article 17 posed a real problem with regard to this type of crime, because it gives the judge the power to use clemency to its highest degree. When the judge lowers two degrees from the prescribed penalty. Extenuating circumstances are left to the discretion of the judge, who vests him in the right to mitigate the sentence within the limits set by the law.”
He added that “what exacerbates this problem is that the judge who uses clemency does not mention it in his judgment notes, only a brief phrase, which is that the court sees from the circumstances of the incident what calls for the use of clemency with the accused,” and the Public Prosecution does not have the right to appeal the verdict. The article stipulates changing the penalty from the death penalty to life or maximum-security imprisonment, from life imprisonment to imprisonment or maximum-security imprisonment, and from maximum-security imprisonment to imprisonment or jail time, which may not be less than 6 months, and from imprisonment to jail time, which may not be less than 3 months”.
As Al-Daqqaq explained in his research, “The problem lies in judicial taste, which is not governed by a legislative text, but rather is left to the discretion of the judge. This raises many problems in practice, especially when this right is used in a way that contradicts the requirements of justice.”
He mentioned some actual examples of cases in which Article 17 was used in favor of defendants who raped girls, some of whom died as a result of the accident.
Despite this, the judges used this article and the sentence was reduced.
Excuses to Mitigate the Sentence
The Incident News section of the Egyptian newspapers are filled with many verdicts, which include commuting sentences for the defendants in these cases.
Article 237 of the Egyptian Penal Code also grants the court the right to reduce sentences in cases that fall under the pretext of “honor.”
The article states: “Reducing the punishment of a husband who surprises his wife in the act of adultery, and kills her on the spot, along with the one who commits adultery with her. The reason for the mitigation is that this husband is not punished with the penalties prescribed for premeditated murder or beating that leads to death, but rather he is punished with a prison sentence alone.
Judges sometimes use this article to mitigate sentences for male relatives (father, brother, uncle).
An example of this is what happened with Souad, the victim of Dar Al-Salam, who was killed by her brother who was imprisoned for only 5 years.
In a report published in 2020 by the Egyptian National Center for Social and Criminal Research, family crimes, most of which fall under the name of “honor” crimes, are committed by spouses, fathers, or siblings out of jealousy over “honor.”
He confirmed that 70% of “honor” crimes were committed by husbands against their wives. And 20% were committed by brothers against their sisters.
While “fathers” committed 7% of these crimes against their daughters.
As for the remaining 3% of the so-called “honor” crimes, they were committed by sons against their mothers.