The belief that so-called “honour killings” are justified continues to be common among Jordanian teenagers, a new Cambridge University study says.
The study by researchers from the university’s Institute of Criminology found that almost half of boys and one in five girls interviewed in the capital, Amman, believe that killing a daughter, sister or wife who has “dishonoured” or shamed the family, is justified.
“Researchers surveyed over 850 students, and found that attitudes in support of honour killing are far more likely in adolescent boys with low education backgrounds,” a statement said, adding that the research was published in the criminology journal Aggressive Behavior.
“Importantly, the study found that these disturbing attitudes were not connected to religious beliefs.”
So-called “honour” murders claim between 15 and 20 women’s lives, on average, every year in the Arab kingdom.
The main factors behind these crimes “include patriarchal and traditional worldviews, emphasis placed on female virtue and a more general belief that violence against others is morally justified”, according to the study.
“We noted substantial minorities of girls, well-educated and even irreligious teenagers who consider honour killing morally right, suggesting a persisting society-wide support for the tradition,” said Professor Manuel Eisner, who led the study with graduate student Lana Ghuneim.
In all, 33.4 percent of all respondents either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with situations depicting honour killings.
“Boys were more than twice as likely to support honour killings: 46.1 percent of boys and 22.1 percent of girls agreed with at least two honour killing situations in the questionnaire.”
Sixty-one percent of teenagers from the lowest level of educational background showed supportive attitudes towards “honour killing”, as opposed to only 21.1 percent where at least one family member has a university degree, said the study.
“While stricter legislation has been introduced – despite conservative fears – cultural support for violence against women who are seen as breaking norms has remained widespread,” it added.
Murder is punishable by death in Jordan, but in “honour killings”, courts can commute or reduce sentences, particularly if the victim’s family asks for leniency.