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Murder shines spotlight on 'honor killings'

By Glenn Bezalel for CNN

Yones was stabbed to death by her father.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The life sentence handed down to an Iraqi immigrant for murdering his daughter in London has focused attention on so-called "honor killings."

Sixteen-year-old Hsehu Yones was stabbed to death at her home on October 12, 2002, for having a Christian boyfriend.

Fearing his daughter was becoming Westernized, Abdullah Yones said he acted to "redeem" his family name. (Full story)

Yones' stabbing is believed to be among 12 "honor killings" in the UK last year, according to Scotland Yard.

Yet the practice is a global problem, with the United Nations estimating some 5,000 cases annually.

In Pakistan, where such slayings are most pervasive, the country's Human Rights Commission pointed to 461 "honor killings" in 2002 -- up nearly 25 percent on the previous year. (Full story)

The commission complains that few perpetrators are brought to justice as local authorities and community members cover up many attacks, recording them as suicides or accidents.

Usually carried out by a male relative, "honor killings" seek to defend the reputation of the family if a female member is perceived to have behaved immorally.

This may take the form of marital infidelity, refusing an arranged marriage, demanding a divorce, flirting, or even "allowing herself" to be raped.

The human rights group Gendercide believes the phenomenon to be part of a culture that sees women predominantly in terms of property and honor.

In Jordan, sentences for "honor killings" typically average just six months.

And in September, Jordanian lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected introducing harsher punishments for men who carry out the killings, despite recent calls from King Abdullah.

Arguing that lenient sentences deter women from "sin," Deputy Mahmoud Kharabsheh told The Association Press that such proposed legislation was "contradictory to our traditions and Islamic teachings."

One day after parliament's decision, the Jordan Times newspaper reported that three brothers had hacked their two sisters to death for reasons of family "honor."

The murders, bringing to 12 the number reported killed so far this year in Jordan, were condemned by the U.S. State Department.

"These reports are a chilling reminder that the terrible practice of 'honor killings' continues to impede the efforts of nations like Jordan to extend the full protection of its legal system to each of its citizens," department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said.

Amid growing awareness of "honor killings," British police are to carry out research in the hope of preventing further domestic murders.

Yet as the Yones case confirmed, no tolerance will be shown for violence in the name of culture in the UK.

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