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Middle East

Teenagers in Jordan support ‘honour killings,’ research finds

University of Cambridge study shows brutal practice of vigilante justice still holds sway for significant proportions of adolescent population

A new generation of teenagers in the Middle East believe honour killings to be 'justified', according to a new study of young people in Jordan.

The disturbing findings in a study by researchers at the University of Cambridge shows the brutal practice of vigilante justice, predominantly against young women for perceived slights against family 'honour,' still holds sway for significant proportions of the adolescent population.

In one of the first studies of its kind, social attitudes of 15-year-olds in the Middle Eastern country's capital Amman towards honour killings, revealed almost half of boys and one in five girls believe killing a daughter, sister or wife who has 'dishonoured' or shamed the family is justified. A third of all teenagers involved in the research advocated honour killing.

Jordan, like some other countries in the Middle East and Asia has an old tradition of honour killings and a poor record when it comes to criminalising such violence against women.

Researchers from the university's Institute of Criminology discovered the attitudes were not connected to religious beliefs and instead, the main factors include patriarchal and traditional worldviews with emphasis placed on female 'virtue' coupled with a more general belief that violence against others could be morally justified.

One of the researchers, Lana Ghuneim, said she was motivated to carry out the research after she had met someone who she had later found out had been killed in an honour crime.

They found a large proportion of teenagers in Jordan believe killing a woman deemed to have 'dishonoured' her family is 'morally right.'

They found the main demographic in support of honour killings to be boys in traditional families with low levels of education, as well as noticing substantial minorities of girl; including those who were well educated and even irreligious.

The survey suggested there was a persisting, society-wide support from the tradition.

Professor Manuel Eisner, Director of the Violence Research Centre at the Institute of Criminology, one of the researchers, said: “We expected a fair proportion of adolescents of having attitudes in favour of honour killings. But when I saw the numbers, I was really surprised about these very high figures.

”Jordan is quite a modern country in terms of its values held by the political elite, so it is quite concerning to see - especially amongst low-educated adolescents - that these beliefs are very widespread indeed.“