From last December, Huma Munshi talks to Lifting the Veil about the concepts of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’
Huma is a writer and poet who writes on many issues including feminism and tackling ‘honour’ based violence. She sees writing as a means to connect with others and healing. She tweets at @Huma101
She started #fuckhonour and #fuckshame hashtags on Twitter; here she explains her thinking.
Muslim Women’s Network launched a report, entitled Unheard Voices, in autumn of this year describing the prevalence of young Asian, Muslim girls being sexually abused. There were a number of things that made me extremely angry but what led me to start the “#fuckhonour” hashtag was the concept of ‘honour’ to victim blame and silence young girls who had been victims of abuse.
In one case, parents of a sexual abuse victim felt that the young girl had brought shame on to the family. As a result, they forced her to undergo hymen repair surgery and then into a forced marriage.
A child being abused is horrific and but what compounded my anger was (yet again) family and community ‘honour’ had come before the needs of a child.
I started the hashtag whilst reading the case studies in Unheard Voices but I have heard stories of young people being abused and murdered in the name of honour for a long and painful time. I know this only too well. I allude to my own experience in my #fuckhonour and #fuckshame article of being a survivor of honour based oppression. I found the writing and the twitter hashtag extremely cathartic.
It’s the saddest thing, isn’t it? That wrong-headed ideas of “honour” and “shame” can be stronger and more salient than parents’ love for their daughter?
Lifting the Veil asks her to explain what she means by “honour.”
The Crown Prosecution Service define honour based violence as “practices which are used to control behaviour within families or other social groups to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. Such violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and / or community by breaking their honour code. Women are predominantly (but not exclusively) the victims of so called ‘honour based violence’, which is used to assert male power in order to control female autonomy and sexuality.”
The final sentence is particularly import to understand the impact of honour in patriarchal societies. Honour is a means to oppress and subjugate women. In societies where ‘honour’ is put above the well-being of women, a woman’s intellect, autonomy, sexuality and identity and all supressed. They are seen as a threat to family standing within the community. Within these patriarchal communities, what could be more dangerous than an unmarried sexually active young woman?
Two unmarried sexually active young women.