Rethinking the term 'honor killing'
The term "honor killing" has been widely criticized in academic and social literature.
The term "honor killing" has been widely criticized in academic and social literature. It also makes journalists feel uncomfortable and they commonly put it between quotes.
On the one hand, the term just describes a social custom in a particular society. On the other hand, it seems to legitimize an association between a family's honor and its preservation through murder.
"There is no doubt the term 'honor killing' is problematic because it implies a connection between the murder and protecting the family honor," says law professor Daphne Barak-Erez of Tel Aviv University. "The very association of murder with protecting honor - with honor being the most sublime value - is wrong and could in a certain way lead to undue leniency...I don't think it creates legitimacy, but it could create a kind of understanding or empathy."
"Since language shapes consciousness we should give it some thought, because naming a manifestation is part of the way it is perceived," says Barak-Erez.
For example, the term "sexual harassment," which did not exist a few decades ago, defined the problem as social and enabled dealing with it legally, in contrast to a personal problem every woman must deal with separately.