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Family Killing Fields

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 5 Issue: 2 Dated: February 1999 Pages: 164-184
N V Baker; P R Gregware; M A Cassidy
Date Published
21 pages
This study suggests that the killing of women by close family members throughout the world can in part be explained by underlying honor/shame systems as a subcategory of patriarchal ideology.
Honor, when it depends on the behavior of others, is a useful fiction in preserving male dominance. Not only does it serve to justify repressive control measures within the home, it necessarily restricts female participation outside the home by defining the public sphere as male and off-limits. Women who are raised in societies with strict and clearly defined notions of honor and female purity are generally compliant in accepting their subordinate position within the society. A system of honor seldom needs to be enforced with violence, because it wraps patriarchal self-interest in the cloak of legitimacy as a cultural norm. The fact that honor is not an overt rationale for many femicides in the West does not negate its significance as a possible explanatory factor. The underlying components of an honor system -- control, shame, and a reference community -- are interactive and variable in different cultural contexts. Understanding the interactive dynamic of such honor systems may help to explain why the murder of women by their intimate male partners continues and why there are increased murder rates among unmarried women by their intimate partners. 4 notes and 51 references