The Vancouver Sun reports about the problem of honour killings in Canada but does so in such a cursory and muddled way, that they might as well have not said anything at all! The article starts off well, citing the issues…

A 14-year-old female rape victim is strangled to death in March 2004 by her father and brother because she has supposedly tarnished the family name.

In April 2004, a man brutally kills his wife and daughter after finding out that his brother had previously molested them.

A teenage girl with a Turkish background has her throat cut by her father after he learns she has a Christian boyfriend.

These are frightening stories that I personally would like to have more information about. My problem with the article is 1) It’s a very short and cursory exploration of the issue (apparently the issue does not merit attention?) and 2) I have some problems with what the authority (Dr. Amin Muhammad at Memorial University) who is cited in the article says.

Muhammad’s report contains statistics from the United Nations Population Fund which reveal that more than 5,000 women are victims of so-called “honour” killings each year.

“In different cultures, they can get away without being punished — the courts actually sanction them under religious contexts,” he said.

Along with extreme traditional beliefs, there are deeper mental health issues that need to be considered, Muhammad said.

Quite often, people who are willing to kill members of their own family to restore some notion of honour are doing so, not just because they believe it to be right based on culture, but also because they are mentally ill in some way.

“Somehow, it gets ignored,” Muhammad said, citing a lack of understanding in the West and the lack of mental health personnel in developing nations as part of the problem.

I’m not trying to denigrate mental health issues, or contend that they are not contributing factors to honour killings but who else is scared that such thinking will simply allow people who commit such acts to use a mental health defense? Also, 5000 women each year seems to be a lot of women to be killed by male relatives with mental health problems. It seems to me that much more is going on here and that this article acts to dismiss the larger cultural problems with the way in which women are valued or devalued in order to lead to such situations. But that’s just me.