U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Culture of Honor, Culture of Change: A Feminist Analysis of Honor Killings in Rural Turkey

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 7 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2001 Pages: 964-998
Aysan Sev'er; Gokcecicek Yurdakul
Date Published
September 2001
35 pages
This article presents a feminist analysis of honor killings in rural Turkey.
An "honor killing" is a generic term used to refer to the premeditated murder of preadolescent, adolescent, or adult women by one or more male members of the immediate or extended family. These killings are often committed when a male family council decides on the time and form of execution due to an allegation, suspicion, or proof of sexual impropriety by the victim. Definitions of impropriety can be amorphous, often subsuming sexual or sensual acts, allegations, or rumors. One of the main goals of this analysis of honor killings is to dissociate this practice from a particular religious belief system and locate it on a continuum of patriarchal patterns of violence against women. The article discusses modernization versus traditionalism in Turkey, emphasizing the contradictory forces in a culture of change. The authors then discuss conflict orientations in the context of violence against women, beginning from some of the assertions and assumptions of the Marx/Engels hypothesis and socialist feminism, and then comparing and contrasting the radical feminist orientation with the materialist orientation. The authors provide examples of honor killings in Turkey that have been recorded in recent years, highlighting the common threads of these crimes. The patterns identified are more supportive of the radical and socialist feminist orientations than the Marx/Engels hypothesis. The cases challenge the link between the subjugation of women and the accumulation of private property. In the cases examined, the only property that the male perpetrators owned was the lies and bodies of their women. These findings support the radical and socialist feminist perspective of gendered subjugation rather than a strictly materialistic explanation. The article concludes with suggestions for breaking the cycle of violence against women, emphasizing the personal, social, structural, and global links in engendering positive change. A general recommendation is that the international community work with enlightened Turkish women and men to initiate changes that are respectful of the cultural mores without being enslaved by them. 12 notes and 94 references