Recently, the body of 20-year-old Ayah Baradiyya was found at the bottom of a well on the West Bank. CNN reports that Baradiyya’s uncle told police that he killed his niece because he thought she had sexual contact with a man she was planning to marry. He and two friends picked her up from school, beat her, and threw her, still alive, into the well, placing a rock on the hatch.
The murder was called an honor killing, since it partially fits the bill — a male relative killing a woman in his family because of her behavior. But Nabil Al-Ja’Abari, chairman of the Hebron University board of trustees where Baradiyya attended school, has another idea:
“This is not an honor killing. I hope all of us will stop using this term. It has nothing to do with honor. It only has to do with taking the life of a human being,” [he] said.
When you put it that way, it’s amazing that we’re still using the term “honor killing.” It seems fairly clear that those of us opposed to the practice don’t find it honorable. And like in cases of rape, when attacks against women are called something other than physical assault or murder, using a label that has underpinnings of a sexual nature causes all kinds of things fire off in some people’s brains. “What did she do?” “What did she look like?” “How old was she?” “What was she wearing?”
We are not to the point where everyone can separate out their feelings about women’s sexuality and violence, and that’s how we wind up not only with the murder of women like Baradiyya but with police officers and judges who publicly state that women are to be blamed when they are raped.
Am I saying we should stop using the word “rape”? No. But taking the word “honor” out of the way we refer to a brutal murder of a young woman seems like a very good idea.