Honor killings long have been a problem in the Middle East and in other countries due to tribalism and sexism about the roles of women in a heavily patriarchal society. This story is one of the latest atrocities committed against women for the single crime of being born a female to a unwed mother:

The baby was suffocated by her grandmother after the family learned the 25-year-old mother became pregnant out of wedlock, Anatolian said.

"My family decided to kill my baby," the mother told the police, according to Anatolian. "My 55-year-old mother choked the baby with a cloth. Then, my brothers buried the baby in a hole in the garden and covered the hole with cement."

This story horrifies me, and reminds me that we have a great deal of work to do on women's rights, here at home and abroad. We still have these paternalistic attitudes about children being born out of wedlock, and have much work to do in eradicating this social stigma at home and abroad.

Here's a brief run-down from Amnesty USA about what honor killings are:

So-called honor killings are based on the belief, deeply rooted in some cultures, of women as objects and commodities, not as human beings endowed with dignity and rights equal to those of men. Women are considered the property of male relatives and are seen to embody the honor of the men to whom they "belong." Women's bodies are considered the repositories of family honor. The concepts of male status and family status are of particular importance in cultures where "honor" killings occur and where women are viewed as responsible for upholding a family's "honor." If a woman or girl is accused or suspected of engaging in behavior that could taint male and/or family status, she may face brutal retaliation from her relatives that often results in violent death. Even though such accusations are not based on factual or tangible evidence, any allegation of dishonor against a woman often suffices for family members to take matters into their own hands.

What can we do to help prevent honor killings like these happening to a two-day old baby girl and to thousands of females all over the world?

Here's what you can do below in taking action on this important issue:

There is a landmark piece of legislation that could help address the issue of gender-specific violence and discrimination against women in the Middle East and in third world countries. It's called the International Violence Against Women Act. From Women Thrive, an organization dedicated to women's rights on an global scale, is the synopsis of what this legislation would do:

The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA - H.R. 4594, S. 2982), if passed, would for the first time comprehensively incorporate these solutions into all U.S. foreign assistance programs - solutions such as promoting women's economic opportunity, addressing violence against girls in school, and working to change public attitudes. Among other things, the IVAWA would make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority for the first time in U.S. history. It would require the U.S. government to respond to critical outbreaks of gender-based violence in armed conflict - such as the mass rapes now occuring in the Democratic Republic of Congo - in a timely manner. And by investing in local women's organizations overseas that are succesfully working to reduce violence in their communities, the IVAWA would have a huge impact on reducing poverty -  empowering millions of women in poor countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty.

The IVAWA (H.R. 4594, S. 2982), which was also introduced in the House and the Senate during the last Congress, was reintroduced on February 4, 2010 by Congressman Delahunt (D-MA), Congressman Poe (R-TX), and Congresswoman Schakowsky (D-IL) with other members and Senator Kerry (D-MA), Senator Snowe (R-ME), Senator Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Collins (R-ME) with other Senators.

So, if you want to help stop the rapes in Congo and honor killings like what happened to that baby girl, here are the steps below for you to take action:

  1. You can send a message to Congress about the IVAWA.
  1. You can sign the petition on IVAWA here.

Also, the U.S. State Department has expressed support for legislation like IVAWA, as you can see here. Here is the blog post from Melanne Velaneer, the director of the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues:

I want to make it clear: "culture" cannot justify the violation of human rights. Addressing violence against women is the responsibility and imperative of every nation. In terms of its moral, humanitarian, development, economic, and international security consequences, violence against women and girls is one of the major impediments to progress around the globe. We need the kind of serious and coordinated response to it that we give to other threats of this magnitude.

On February 4, the International Violence Against Women Act was introduced by Senators Kerry (D-MA), Boxer (D-CA), Snowe (R-ME), and Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Delahunt (D-MA) and Poe (R-TX). They and other members of Congress understand the severity of this global scourge. We share Congress' view that ending violence against women must be a policy priority of the United States. While we continue to push this issue at all levels of our foreign policy engagement, we know that more work can and should be done to support effective coordination across the entire U.S. government to address international violence against women.

The proposed legislation calls for a five-year strategy to support programs to combat violence against women around the world. It would authorize a specialized office in the U.S. Agency for International Development to expand and modify emergency and humanitarian relief programs to address violence, and would support prevention strategies across foreign policy and assistance programs.

Members of Congress rightfully seek to put the issue of of violence against women in its proper context, as one that's central to our foreign policy goals. As I've said on other occasions, no country can get ahead if half its population is left behind -- and ending violence against women is a prerequisite for women's social, economic, and political participation and progress. Girls in Afghanistan can't get an equal education if they're subject to acid attacks and their schools are burned down. Women can't succeed in the workplace if they are abused and traumatized, nor can they advance if legal systems continue to treat them as less than full citizens. And female politicians can't compete for office on an equal playing field when they receive threatening "night letters" or fear for their families' safety.

Please urge your Member of Congress to co-sponsor the IVAWA, and to pass it this legislative session. Women all over the globe need our help on this issue now.


I am not affiliated or working with WomenThrive.org, or Amnesty USA, or other groups save for Progressive Congress Action Fund. I am writing this as a private citizen, compelled to take action on this important issue, because of the news story I read.

Originally posted to slinkerwink on Fri Apr 16, 2010 at 04:55 PM PDT.

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