Jordan’s honor crimes correlated with poverty

Jordan’s honor crimes correlated with povertyAccording to the United Nations Human Development report (2009), honor killings constitute a valuable indicator of the violence inflicted on women, anywhere in the world. The UNHD report says the annual number of women who die as a result of honor killings in the world is 5000. In Jordan, according to official figures, the average annual number of honor crimes is 15-20. Within the European Instrument for Democracy and Human rights (EIDHR), and in order to change the Jordanian mindset toward the crime, the European Union funded the implementation of a project entitled: Removing honor from crimes of honor in Jordan.

She never thought that one day she’d be killed by her most beloved person, her father. That day, this young Jordanian woman, under the age of 18, went out with her brother to the photographer. She was wearing makeup and her favorite clothes. She made the mistake of leaving her brother for a while, under the pretext of going to the bathroom, in order to meet up with one guy. At this point, she fortuitously meets her uncle, who, unhappy with her behavior, takes her back home and reproaches the father for allowing his daughter to wear makeup and “get away from her brother’s surveillance!” After reprimanding his son for allowing his sister to go by herself, the father started asking his daughter about the guy she was seeing. The girl refused to answer the question and ended up paying for doing this: her father and her brother kept beating her to death. “For God’s sake, please stop!” said the girl before she died. Instead of an answer to his question, the father received virtually a Legion of Honor award, before being transferred to a rehabilitation center. In the name of preserving “family honor”, and because of her “shameful behavior”, the father beat his under-18-year-old daughter to death.

The family honor in the Arab world

This story is one of many other honor killings perpetrated in Jordan and published on This website was created within a EU-funded initiative entitled “Removing honor from crimes of honor: a project to change traditional mindset in Jordanian society” and implemented in partnership with the Mafraq Centre for Development, Economic Research and Analysis, the Jordanian Centre for Social Research and the Information and Research Center. tells the story of Jordanian women who have died as a result of honor crimes committed during 2000-2009. It also includes perpetrators affidavits, legal information and statistics, with a forum for debates concerning this issue.

It is to be noted that, in Jordan, the concept of dignity is strongly related to the concept of honor in its sexual connotation, which helps cover crimes perpetrated in the name of honor. The director of the Jordanian Centre for Social Research Moussa Shteiwi says this perception is related to the patriarchal family system in Jordanian and Arab societies where women's behavior affects the family’s honor. According to Moussa Shteiwi, honor crimes occur in both Arab and Western societies, except that in Western societies, those crimes are committed under the name of “crimes of passion” by the husband or the lover, instead of the father or the brother. Shteiwi says there is a big misperception about honor crimes among Jordanian citizens; and even many women’s associations do not address this issue.

Poverty and crimes

The “Removing Honor from Crimes of Honor” project aims at empowering civil society and women’s associations to get rid of honor crimes. Nermeen Murad is the director of the Information and Research Center – King Hussein Foundation (an association concerned by family affairs). She says the overall objective of the project is to spread general awareness about this issue, and change the Jordanian mindset toward the crime. It also aims at changing the honor killings’ institutional and legal frameworks.

In Jordan, in the case of so-called honor killings, article 340 of the Penal Code states that “he who discovers his wife, or one of his female ascendants or descendants or sisters with another man in unlawful [circumstances, bed…] and he kills, or injures one or both of them, benefits from a reduction of penalty.” There has been much outcry in Jordan for the amendments or repeal of Article 340. And the project team is currently working on “increasing penalties for honor crimes’ perpetrators and highlighting the importance of individual human rights instead of family rights.”

The project attempts to clarify the reasons behind honor killings. A study was conducted by the Information and Research Center on honor crimes’ victims and perpetrators. One of its main findings is that there is a strong correlation between poverty and honor crimes: a new fact that was never highlighted before. In fact, it is commonly known that honor killings are shaped by social and cultural factors. But this study revealed that the economic factor is well correlated with honor crimes. “The value of honor increases among poor families, as honor is the unique source of pride for them. Due to poverty, the honor of a family is very dependent on women’s behavior” says Murad.

66% of perpetrators are poor males

Jordan’s honor crimes correlated with povertyThe study included interviews with honor crimes’ perpetrators. IRC team work used the case files of 102 honor crimes committed during 2000-2009 and conducted interviews with 27 inmates who accepted to be interviewed. The study revealed that 66% of the perpetrators were poor and 73% of the victims were economically disadvantaged females. Dr. Yusuf Mansur, the director of the Mafraq Center for Development, Economic Research and Analysis, says honor crimes are more of an economic phenomenon than a social one. 

According to the study, 30% of the Jordanian population are poor and they live mainly in Amman, while 54% of honor crimes’ victims live in the poor central area. Yusuf Mansur reports that “the number of honor killings increases with poverty.” Using official statistics and reports, the study showed that most victims and perpetrators of honor crimes are unemployed, have low education and/or low income level. Consequently, women represent a serious financial burden on men. This is the reason why improving women's capacity to achieve good education and economic security could help reduce the number of honor crimes. 

In addition to the study, the website provides a general overview of honor crimes committed in Jordan and sheds light on a profound injustice inflicted on Jordanian women who, while being entirely deprived of their human rights, are judged, condemned and killed by their dearly beloved.

Refer to the project fact sheet : European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights "EIDHR" (Jordan)

Nisrine Mansour - Amman, Al-Hayat

Published with the courtesy of

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