The stoning death of a pregnant Pakistani woman has shocked the world, but hers is far from being an isolated case. Here is what you need to know about stonings and 'honour killings'.
Islamic leaders of the world must publicly and loudy condemn this mostly misogynist barbarity of stoning and 'honour killing'. So far, the silence has been deafening, while these brutal practices continue.
WHAT IS STONING?
Death by stoning is as simple as it is horrible. A group of people drop or hurl stones on a person until they die. In some cases the victim is partially buried to hold them in place. According to a 2008 Amnesty International report, Iran’s penal code also dictates that the stones used in a stoning should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes — nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones”.
IS STONING A MUSLIM THING?
No and yes. Stoning is not mentioned in the Koran, but it is used as a punishment under Sharia Law in a number of predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia.
Predominantly. One of the crimes punishable under Sharia law is adultery, but activists argue that stoning “disproportionately targets and polices women and their conduct”. According to Amnesty, women in societies that permit stoning are more likely to be treated unequally before a court, more likely to be illiterate (and hence likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit) and more likely to suffer discrimination in other areas of their life that could leave them susceptible to a conviction for adultery. Homosexual activity by men and women is also punishable by stoning in some societies.
HOW DOES STONING RELATE TO HONOUR KILLINGS?
Stoning is but one method of performing an honour killing, albeit an extremely slow and painful one. Honour killings are the murders of family members who are believed to have brought shame upon their family or community, often but not always through their sexual activity.
HOW COMMON ARE 'HONOUR KILLINGS'?
Numbers vary from country to country and are notoriously difficult to verify. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that 869 women were murdered in honour killings in 2013 alone.
ARE AUSTRALIANS INVOLVED IN 'HONOUR KILLINGS'?
Yes. The first reported honour killing that involved Australian citizens happened within a Kurdish community in Iraq in 1999, but there have been other isolated cases since then. Sydney man Hazairin Iskandar was accused of committing an ‘honour killing’ on his wife’s rumoured lover and was sentenced to 17 years in jail in 2013.
WHAT DOES THE REST OF THE WORLD SAY ABOUT STONING?
The United Nations human rights office “voiced deep concern” — their words — when the Sultan of Brunei introduced Sharia law last month, including stoning for sodomy offences. OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville said the application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private contravened the rights to privacy, to equality before the law, the right to health and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Amnesty International, including international human rights groups have long campaigned against stoning throughout the world. A new campaign to boycott a chain of hotels part-owned by the Sultan of Brunei has also sprung up in recent months after the Sultan introduced Sharia law. The boycott of the Dorchester Collection of hotels has been bolstered by the support of celebrities including Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, Richard Branson, and most recently, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
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