Kurdish Officials Should End Killings Related To Out-Of-Wedlock Pregnancies, Sex Outside Marriage

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Officials in the Kurdish region of Iraq are seeking to end so-called"honor" killings, the murder of a woman by a relative to protect thefamily's honor because she became pregnant while unmarried, or forengaged in premarital or extramarital sex or other actions that couldaffect the family, the AP/Miami Herald reports. According to the AP/Herald,honor killings are an ancient tradition in the Kurdish areas of Iraq,Iran and Turkey, as well as in tribal areas of Pakistan and some Arabsocieties.

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Kurdistan's Parliament in 2002 revoked Iraqi lawsthat dismissed charges or allowed leniency in cases involving honorkillings. The British government earlier this year arranged for adelegation of Iraqi Kurds to meet with Pakistani officials to discusstheir experiences in combating the practice. "Killing under the pretextof protecting honor is murder," Nechirvan Barzani, the region's primeminister, said in July.

Advocates against honor killings havewelcomed the regional government's efforts to halt the custom bypublicly condemning it and warning about harsh penalties for those whocommit the act. Runak Faraj -- head of the Rewan Women's Center inSulaimaniyah, one of Kurdistan's main cities -- said that the attitudetoward honor killings could be changing in part because of an increasedWestern influence in the region. "Western culture is growing here andis in contradiction with the old tradition that honor is somethingsacred," she said. Some advocates added that more education about thecustom, as well as law enforcement, is needed.

According toofficials who attended the meeting with Pakistani officials, there areseveral hundred honor killings and related suicides annually in IraqiKurdistan, but reliable statistics are not available because ofineffective law enforcement and a lack of cooperation among tribalcommunities. The number of women who committed suicide by settingthemselves on fire increased from 36 in 2005 to 133 in 2006, and thenumber of women murdered increased from four to 17 in the same timeperiod, according to a report by Kurdistan's Human Rights Ministry. Thereport did not specifically mention honor killings (Torchia, AP/Miami Herald, 10/7).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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