Belief that so-called honor killings are justified is still common among Jordanian teenagers, a Cambridge University study revealed on Thursday.
The study by researchers from the university’s Institute of Criminology found that almost half of boys and one in five girls interviewed in the capital, Amman, believe that killing a daughter, sister or wife who has “dishonored” or shamed the family is justified.
“Researchers surveyed over 850 students, and found that attitudes in support of honor killing are far more likely in adolescent boys with low education backgrounds,” a statement said, adding that the research is published in the criminology journal Aggressive Behavior.
“Importantly, the study found that these disturbing attitudes were not connected to religious beliefs.”
Between 15 and 20 women die in so-called “honor” murders each year in the Arab kingdom, despite government efforts to curb such crimes.
The main factors behind these crimes “include patriarchal and traditional worldviews, emphasis placed on female virtue and a more general belief that violence against others is morally justified,” according to the study.
“We noted substantial minorities of girls, well-educated and even irreligious teenagers who consider honor killing morally right, suggesting a persisting society-wide support for the tradition,” said Professor Manuel Eisner, who led the study with graduate student Lana Ghuneim.
In all, 33.4 percent of all respondents either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with situations depicting honor killings.
“Boys were more than twice as likely to support honor killings: 46.1 percent of boys and 22.1 percent of girls agreed with at least two honor killing situations in the questionnaire.”
Sixty-one percent of teenagers from the lowest level of educational background showed supportive attitudes towards “honor killing,” as opposed to only 21.1 percent where at least one family member has a university degree, said the study.
And 41.5 percent of teenagers with a large number of siblings endorsed at least two “honor-killing situations,” while this was only the case for 26.7 percent of teens from smaller families.
“While stricter legislation has been introduced – despite conservative fears – cultural support for violence against women who are seen as breaking norms has remained widespread,” it added.
Murder is punishable by death in Jordan, but in “honor killings” courts can commute or reduce sentences, particularly if the victim’s family asks for leniency.