Honor the Victims of Honor Killings with Stronger Penalties

Target: Beth A. Williams, US Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Policy

Goal: Enact new guidelines that classify atrocities committed in the name of honor as hate crimes.

Nearly six months ago, a young couple was found buried in an unmarked gravesite, wounds from electrocution covering their bodies. This boy and girl committed the crime of falling in love against their families’ wishes, and their punishment was a so-called ‘honor killing.’ Every year, an estimated 30 million people, mostly women, meet the same tragic fate. Pakistan, one of the most prominent sites for such murders, took a significant step in admonishing these crimes. The government enacted harsh penalties specific to honor killings, including a mandatory lengthy prison sentence. Other countries, however, including the United States, have not made similar strides.

Honor killings most often occur when a family or a larger community believes an individual has gone against longstanding religious or cultural tradition. The perceived affronts typically revolve around personal behaviors such as marriage, sexuality, clothing choices, or even being a victim of rape. When the individual behaves in a manner deemed shameful or dishonorable to a family or community, family members (often in collusion) will agree that death is the only acceptable penalty for the perceived infraction.

These murderers and accessories to murder may truly believe that they ‘have to’ commit the crime, but in most cases they are fully aware of the gravity of their actions. In the gravest acts of premeditation, they will convene family councils to decide the fate of their family member. When they choose killing a beloved family member to preserve family ‘honor,’ these families will sometimes even select a minor to perform the killing in order to minimize punishment for the offender. In essence, these families are committing child abuse and murder all in one.

Make no mistake that these egregious crimes happen all over the world, including in the United States. These are hate crimes of the highest order and should be designated as such. Sign this petition and urge our policymakers to follow the lead of Pakistan and ensure every individual lives a life free from the fear of death and oppression.


Dear Ms. Williams,

We are a country unafraid to take a stand against injustice, but fear sometimes keeps us from recognizing grave injustices perpetrated on our own grounds. History has taught us time and again that we must take this stand.

Honor killings are a topic many believe to be the problem of ‘other’ societies and cultures. Surely the shootings, stabbings, burnings, mutilations, beheadings, and torture that characterize these outrageous offenses could not happen behind our own closed doors. Unfortunately, the harrowing stories of survivors tell us differently. More tragically still, many voices who could speak to these crimes are now forever silenced.

American lawmakers may be afraid to identify and properly punish these egregious crimes for fear of cultural backlash, but for every action not taken and every word not acknowledged, another young life reaches a tragic conclusion. Pakistan at last heeded this prophecy by finally enacting laws and dictates tailored specifically to honor killings.

America can and should be the next advocate. Incorporate honor killings into US hate crime laws and be the ambassador for all those lost and all those who might yet be saved.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Virginie Nguyen Hoang

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  1. Ms. Williams, It’s you job to make sure that justice is served in this situation. Please do so, and take a stand against injustice.

  2. lynn woods says:

    this is what comes of this so called religion the muslums have and they bring them into our country and the US keep them all the hell out there’s enough shootings and killings without bringing these sick bastards here thanks to Trudeau where can’t breath because we have so many here they get free everything and are looked after better that our vets elderly and homeless of course he only brought them in because he wants more votes come election time well they shouldn’t be allowed to vote they should be shipped back to where they came from then if they want to have their honor killings or what ever well let them but keep it and them out of our countries they’ve already changed our culture in Canada because of them I say ship them out

  3. This is a barbaric custom ,it was for the benefit of men ensuring women could not enjoy sexual relations,it has been continued by older women who have suffered the same mutilation ,after generations they call it a custom. Now is the time to take a stand against this savagery,its inbred to torture young girls and these ignorant peoples are caught and prosecuted with extremely hard sentences.

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