According to UN estimates, every year over 5,000 women are killed in “honor killings” in the Middle East. The tradition, which is often carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for refusing an arranged marriage, alleged adultery, or being the victim of sexual assault, is practiced in some extremist societies if a woman is accused of bringing shame to her family. On Tuesday, May 27th 2014, a 25-year old pregnant woman named Farzana Parveen was stoned to death by 20 members of her extended family outside of a courthouse in Lahore, Pakistan for marrying the man she loved. While public stonings are rare, the brazen attack took place in broad daylight in front of a crowd of onlookers. “I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it,” Mr. Mujahid, the police investigator, quoted the father as saying. This isn’t the first highly publicized honor killing to spark a global outrage. In 2007, Du’a Khalil Aswad, a 17-year old Iraqi Kurd of the Yazidi faith, was stoned to death by hundreds of men in Northern Iraq for falling in love with a Muslim boy. A 30-minute video of the stoning was recorded on a mobile phone and briefly appeared in the Internet. “Stoning is one of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated against women in order to control and punish their sexuality and basic freedoms,” said Naureen Shameem of the international rights group Women Living Under Muslim Laws. Nevertheless, countries control and punish sexuality and basic freedoms by employing a variety of oppressive tactics. Anti-gay laws, discrimination, persecution, hard labor, jail time, banishments, and whippings are equally effective methods of dictating who a person should or shouldn’t love. Here are 7 countries where strict laws and culture won’t let you love who you want to.
In what amounts to a declaration of war on homosexuality, in June 2013 Russian president Vladimir Putin signed an anti-gay bill classifying “homosexual propaganda” as pornography. While the law is broad and vague at best, the meaning is clear: any parent or teacher who tells their child or student that homosexuality is normal, or anyone who makes pro-gay statements to someone underage, is subject to arrest and fines. In July, Putin followed up the anti-gay bill by signing a law banning the adoption of Russian born children to gay couples. According to the New York Times, Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain. Needless to say, many gays and lesbians are planning their escapes from Russia.
The island of Jamaica. To some, it’s a tropical, irie paradise where “everything is gonna’ be all right”; to others, it’s the most homophobic place on earth due to the high level of violent crime directed at the LGBT community. According to The Huffington Post, 82% of Jamaicans consider homosexuality morally wrong. In Jamaica, being gay or lesbian is criminalized under “abominable crime” legislation, an 1864 sodomy law that’s a relic of British imperialism, but which sets a maximum of 10 years hard labor as punishment. The law has been debated in Jamaica yet never repealed, and it continues to be the lynchpin of a national ideology that embraces homophobia and rejects gay rights.
Uganda is the latest in a series of African nations to approve a law further criminalizing homosexuality. President Yoweri Museveni recently assented to the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014. The Act states that people found guilty of repeated gay sex will receive a life sentence, while those adding, abetting or promoting homosexuality will receive jail terms. Amnesty International states that the 38 African countries that outlaw being gay represent almost half of the 78 nations the United Nations says ban homosexuality around the world. Uganda’s new act has had severe global repercussions; Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands stalled aid to the country, and the World Bank froze a $90 million loan.
According to the Identity Kenya, in March 2013 an 18-year old gay teenager named Mohamed Ali Baashi was buried in the ground up to his chest and stoned to death by Islamic rebels as the village was forced to watch. Baashi was charged with sodomy. “We investigated, and this man did what Muslims shouldn’t do and as a result, he will be stoned to death because homosexuality is more punishable in Islam,” the judge is alleged to have said. Throughout most of Somalia, sodomy is punishable by up to three years in jail. However, in the southern regions of the country it’s a crime punishable by death.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at least 5,000 brides die annually in India because their dowries are considered insufficient. However, the numbers vary dramatically. Statistics from India’s National Crime Records Bureau claim that 8,233 young women were killed in ‘dowry deaths’ in 2012. Arranged marriage is the foundation of the dowry system, and although payment of dowries for marriage is illegal in India, it remains widespread across caste, class and educational divides. In India, women are not only forced to be with men they don’t love, but if there’s not a sufficient amount of money or goods that can be transferred from the family of the bride to the groom, they run the risk of being killed. According to National Geographic, in recent years dowry demands have become more insistent and expensive. In 2013, Pravartika Gupta was burned to death in her bedroom because her family could not afford to speed up the schedule of her dowry payments.
Stonings are not only widespread in Iran, but also legal. In codified interpretations of Islamic law, or Sharia, sexual relationships outside of marriage, along with same-sex relations regardless of marital status, are criminalized and therefore punishable by stoning. While the last known execution took place in 2009, nobody knows exactly how many people have been stoned in Iran. Most stonings are carried out in secret prisons, the desert, or early in the morning in cemeteries. Shade Sadr, an Iranian human rights lawyer, says there are 11 people in prison in Iran under sentence of stoning.
According to the Pakistani rights group Aurat Foundation, around 1,000 Pakistani women are killed every year by their families in honor killings. The true figure, however, is probably many times higher since the Aurat Foundation only compiles statistics from newspaper reports. In fact, few honor killing cases come to court and the Pakistani government doesn’t collect national statistics, leading many human rights groups to suggest the country condones this type of killing. The Washington Post states that 83% of Pakistanis support stoning for adultery, and only 8% oppose it. “We were in love. I simply took her to court and registered a marriage.” That’s what Mohmmad Iqbal told police after 25-year old Farzana Parveen was stoned to death by her family on Tuesday, May 27th 2014. In Pakistan, traditional families believe a woman marrying her own choice of man brings dishonor on the family. It’s not only a country that won’t let a person love who they want, but a country whose residents, and family members, resort to killing loved ones who fall in love with the wrong men.