Just finished reading a book called Killing Honour by Bali Rai, a British Punjabi writer. This book mysteriously appeared on the cart of returned books under me, at the British Library. I had just finished watching several heart breaking and disturbing documentaries on You Tube about the unbelievable honour killings all over the world, of young, gentle, hopeful girls trying to lead better lives, under their own steam, but being killed by their brothers, nephews, cousins, uncles, fathers and even their own mothers.
My friends told me not to watch these depressing and dark videos. But the truth is that we should watch them, and take in their stories, and acknowledge their bravery, courage, sorrow and final deaths. One young girl was found buried inside a suitcase, in the garden of her own home! The uncle and the cousin who had killed her had raped her before she choked to death. So where was the honour in this despicable act?
In Britain a young desperate girl had visited five police stations to complain about her uncle and father planning to kill her. But the police did not help her and within a month she was dead. Only now, after too many young girls have vanished or been killed, the police are taking note. One story was hopeful, where the mother and father who had got their daughter killed because she had escaped from a brutal husband, were finally arrested and put away for life, after another daughter gave evidence against them.
The most difficult wounds to take in are the small innocent dreams of each of them – the young bride married to an old grotesque man in Pakistan, wanted to be a hair dresser, when she got away. She had almost been saved, and was in a shelter but was slyly cheated by her family to go back and was killed. Another wanted to study to be a beautician, a scientist, a teacher, anything other than a slave, bullied and beaten up.
Killing Honour is about a young brother who is torn with guilt and despair because he never noticed that his newly married sister was not happy with her abusive husband, and all too soon she too had vanished. The book talks about the so called ‘honour’ and one wonders whose honour is this about? Where is the honour in crushing young lives? The writer visits schools and discusses these desperately important issues, which is also very cheering.
The book is honest, gripping and very moving. It added to the small but growing tribe of people and cops too, beginning to fight this horrifying human rights issue. In India too I discovered it is all too often hidden and covert. And one wonders when there will be enough courage, concern and joint efforts to stand up for young lives and their stifled voices always behind bars? Their dreams crushed without a care.