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On the Criminal Prosecution of Honor Killings in Austria

NCJ Number
.SIAK-Journal International Edition Volume: 4 Dated: 2014 Pages: 52-61
Christoph Zehetgruber
Date Published
10 pages
After clarifying the concept of "honor killing," this article challenges the claim that honor killings are religiously motivated and then examines relevant rulings by the Austrian Supreme Court of Justice in illustrating the handling of such homicides under Austrian case law.
An "honor killing" is a type of homicide committed against mostly female family members by relatives or other closely associated persons in order to restore the honor of the family after the victim had engaged in some type of behavior perceived by family members as immoral and damaging to the family's reputation within a particular cultural context. These homicides are rooted in a culture and tradition shaped largely by social structures that give high priority to a family's reputation in the community. Although most of the countries where honor killings are prevalent are overwhelmingly Muslim, Islam does not encourage or even condone such behavior. The dynamics and etiology of honor killings stem from patriarchal and traditionalist communities where men have unlimited power as heads of the family and represent the image of their families in the public realm; whereas women have a subordinated role in the family hierarchy. In order to preserve the family's moral image in the wider community, women are required to maintain their sexual purity as virgins until marriage. Should a woman fail in this regard, the culture blames the father for not having been sufficiently protective of a family member. Family honor can only be restored by killing the offender. Only a few cases of such killings have occurred in Austria in which honor is explicitly mentioned as a significant or decisive motive for committing a homicide. This article explains that under Austrian law, it is murder rather than manslaughter, given the premeditated aspect of the killing. 17 references