Case 21

Case study from Kenya on FGM and cultural practices which violate girls’ rights


To show how cultural practices violate the rights of girls.

Narrative Case:

The UN convention on the rights of children define this group as those aged under 18 years. One ethnic grouping in Kenya honours the rites of passage for adolescent boys by unfortunately violating the rights of girls.

Mwandi is fifteen years old. She has known since she started her menses at the age of 12 years that she was destined for something special. Her mother kept a close eye on her and did not allow her to spend nights away from home at her friend’s houses like other girls. Early one morning her mother woke her up and after she had bathed, dressed her up nicely and took her to a strange hut in the nearby village where she was told to lie on a bed and keep her legs open[1].  Before she could scream, she felt a sharp excruciating pain down below after which she felt the sting of some herbal preparations [2]. She was told to keep her legs together. That was the beginning of the end of her childhood. Two weeks later when it had all healed up her mother gave her some special fragrant herbs to bathe with and told her she had to be good as she was going to bring honour to their family.

Later she learnt that ‘warrior’ boys are confined in a camp for various rites. Tradition and culture means girl children are circumcised and given to ‘warriors’ as sexual companions.There was no protection offered against sexually transmitted infections when she developed sores and was later told at the clinic that she was HIV positive [3]. Treatment consisted of herbs that her mother procured from a medicine man [4].

If girls get pregnant, because these relationships are outside marriage, the mother of the girl has to find a way of aborting the foetus. This is done by crushing the head of the foetus against the girl’s pelvis.  Mwandi was brought to the clinic by an aunt who visited the village and noticed the severe pain and extreme bleeding (menorrhagia) she was having [5,6].


Learning Points:

[1] Perpetrators are primary caregivers, parents, teachers and close relatives in Kenya and many other countries where culture and tradition are the predominant reason for a large number of practices that are harmful and violent, especially to girls.

[2] Female genital mutilation is believed to help control sexual urge in young girls and keep them chaste. The same tradition and culture is however throwing these virgin girls at young men to whom they are not married.

[3] There is no sex education of either young men or the young women to protect them against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancies.

[4] There is a lack of healthcare available for those who get STIs.

[5] Women doctors must be aware of these practices and use every available opportunity to educate their patients on the dangers of these practices and the continued violations of the rights of children especially girls.

[6] Women doctors need to work with community opinion leaders to offer education on the effects and outcomes of these harmful practices.



  1. Mohamed  FJ. Does Kenya have the courage to lead on women’s rights in Africa? The Guardian April 21 2014. Available at : [Accessed 28th August 2015]
  2. Munyao WL.  Gender Issues Affecting the Girl Child in Kenya International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 2013; 3(4): 125-9. Available at: [Accessed 28th August 2015]
  1. Queens University Belfast. Children’ rights resources. Available at [Accessed 28th August 2015]
  1.  Armstrong S. In Kenya, a Victory for Girls and Rights. The New York Times June 4 2013. Available at:  [Accessed 28th August 2015]



Case 17

Domestic Violence in Immigrant Family in Canada

Objective:  To illustrate how adjusting to a new culture conflicts with traditional values and results in violence

Narrative Case

Inderpal was the youngest of three siblings.  She had an older sister and an older brother, both of whom had been born in the Punjab in India.  Her family moved to Surrey, BC, from India, looking for better opportunities for their children.  Inderpal was born when her older siblings were 10 and 12 and she was the only one of the three children born in Canada.  

The family was very traditional and the temple was a big part of their lives.  Despite living in Canada, her older sister and brother thought and acted like their immigrant parents and never caused their parents any grief.  Inderpal was very Canadian and had a multi-ethic group of friends. [1]

In high school, Inderpal liked to go to parties where she would smoke and drink and do drugs.  When she started to date a white boy from College, her family felt that she had overstepped the limits.  Despite their demands to stop dating this boy, Inderpal said she was Canadian and could do what she wanted.  When the family would go to temple, they could see others looking at them and knew they were talking about Inderpal’s behaviour.

Inderpal’s brother felt that she was destroying the honour of the family.  He had given it lots of thought and decided that he must make things right.  One night he waited for her to leave a party, intercepted her and dragged her into the bush, where he promptly stabbed and killed her.  He put her body in the trunk of the car and drove out to a rural area where he could leave her body where it would not be found. [2]

Learning Points

[1]  Despite moving to Canada, assimilation is not easy, as Canada encourages multi-culturism where immigrants are encouraged to live according to their traditions and values.  When immigrants come from very traditional countries, there is often difficulty embracing the more liberal Western way of life.  This often leads to family conflict.

[2]  Honour killings are the term given to murders performed because the victim has brought shame to the family by their behaviour.

Background Information

Honour killings are distinct from domestic violence for three reasons:

  • Honour killings are planned in advance
  • Honour killings can involve multiple family members in the killings
  • Perpetrators of honour killings often do not face negative stigma in their families or communities

In 2000, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated that there were at least 5,000 honour killings world-wide annually, which may be an underestimate because many cases go unreported or are falsely reported as suicides.  Although this practice is currently primarily associated in media reports with certain Arab cultures, variations of harmful cultural practices toward women involving violence based on notions of honour have been known in many cultures world-wide  and in many historical times.


This reference provides general information and background about Honour Killings, including a basic classification system and consideration of the “reasons” given for this type of violence against women:


  1. The Canadian Bar Association Service Barriers for Immigrant Women Facing Domestic Violence
  2. Honour Killings on the Rise in Canada
  3. LawNow  A Spotlight on Family Violence and Immigrant Women in Canada
  5. Preliminary Examination of So Called Honour Killings in Canada; Prepared for the Canadian Department of Justice

Case 11

Domestic violence in Pakistan


  1. To demonstrate that culture and religious beliefs can result in honour killings
  2. To show the importance of including religious authorities in preventive programmes


Narrative case:

A Pakistani woman, Farzana Parveen aged 25 years, was beaten to death by members of her own family in Lahore. [1] Parveen was in love with Mohammad Iqbal, aged 45 years, for many years and had decided to marry him against her family´s wishes. [2] Her father had promised her in marriage to a cousin whom she refused to marry. [3]

Parveen and Iqbal decided to go to a courthouse in Lahore to register their marriage. When they left the courthouse, her father and about 20 members [4] of her extended family awaited her. They tried to pull her away from Iqbal and when she refused to leave him, they hit her with bricks until she was dead. [5] Even though the courthouse was located on a main street in Lahore and the crime occurred in daytime, none of the onlookers tried to intervene. [6]

When Parveen’s father gave himself up after the attack, he called the crime an “honour killing”, saying “I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regrets over it”[7]. The police are still searching for the other perpetrators.

Shocked by the brutal nature of the crime the Pakistani Ulema council began to organize a summit to address honour killings. Pakistani religious leaders published a decree which called honour killings “un-Islamic” [8]. 

Learning points

[1] Although most of the reported cases of honour killings in Pakistan happen in the countryside, cases do happen in big cities as this example shows. People living in the countryside are often more conservative and have a poorer education so educating them is extremely important.

[2] 58% of the victims of honour killings worldwide and 43 % of the victims of honour killings in the Muslim world were killed for being too “western” according to the “Middle East Quarterly” (Chesler, Phyllis, 2010). Women can be accused of this for various reasons such as being “too independent”, disobeying their fathers/family`s wishes and /or cultural and religious expectations. Parveen was obviously killed for being too western – she ignored her families wishes and refused to marry a cousin. Instead she tried to decide by herself which man she wanted to marry. Other victims of honour killings in the Muslim world were mostly killed for “sexual impropriety” which means for example that a victim was raped or had extra-marital affairs. It was reported that Parveen had been three-months pregnant so it is also feasible to assume that the accusation of “sexual impropriety” could have played a role, too.

[3] In Pakistan arranged marriages are common (about 77%) and occur often inside the family. Most of the women are promised to a man they only hardly know during childhood. In this case the bride was 25 years old so, she was not a minor any more but cases of arranged marriages during childhood are still common in Pakistan even though a few laws regarding this topic have been passed in the last few years. Male-dominant religions such as Islam in combination with a very strict and strong Islamic council can strengthen patriarchal structures. Due to traditional practices such as arranged marriages where women have no rights, female oppression is common. Not surprisingly, men do consider women as less valuable than men. Poverty and a poor education reinforce this view.

[4] In about one third of honour killings in the Muslim world the father is involved. In 83% of the reported cases, however other members of the family are also involved. 42 % of cases were committed by multiple perpetrators such as this case shows (about 20 members of Parveen`s family were involved in the killing). Due to the principle “Karo Kari” and a special law the family of the victim can forgive the perpetrators and no further prosecution takes place. Honour killings are still considered as a private matter and not reported to the police.

[5] About 50% of the victims were tortured by burning, stoning, hitting to death or stabbing more than ten times and died in agony. In this case, Parveen was hit with bricks until she died.

[6] A study from 2011 administered by the Pew research centre reports that about 40% of the Pakistani public believes that honour killings of women can be sometimes justified. As pointed out in [4] it is considered as something private. Preventive measures such as education should aim to change this way of thinking and to encourage spectators to intervene.

[7] The father himself believes that honour killings are justified as explained in [4], he obviously feels no guilt, even though he has killed his own daughter. The fact that he surrendered directly after the incident to the police does also illustrated the point that many perpetrators are convinced they will escape justice.

[8] As honour killings are often based on wrong and fanatical religious beliefs, it is extremely important to include religious authorities as they have been found to have more influence on the population than laws and the government. Especially in tackling the problem described in [4] and [6] the help of the religious authorities are necessary.

Background information

As the Human rights committee of Pakistan reports, about 869 women were killed in the name of honour in the first half of 2013, but the real number is considered as being much higher. In addition, at least 56 women were killed for giving birth to a girl because girls are still seen as being of less value than boys.

The overall situation in Pakistan for women is still very difficult. In the first half of 2013, 1204 cases of physical violence against women were reported and ¾ of the Pakistani women said that they had been subjected to violence before. Explicit laws against domestic violence or violence against women in general only exist in one province of Pakistan, in Sindh. Often crimes are not reported because the woman is also held responsible for being raped and can be sentenced to death for extramarital sex. As the council of Islamic ideology has a very strong position in Pakistan, testimonies of women have only half the value of the man`s in court. In order to be able to accuse a man of being a rapist at least four female witnesses are needed. Religion hinders women also in participation in politics: during the last election a religious edict, a fatwa was published which said that female participation in the election is un-Islamic, even though about 19.5% of the politicians in Pakistan are females.


  1. Pakistan woman stoned by family outside court. Aljazeera. 28 may 2014. (7/24/14)
  2. Pakistan clerics issue stoning death decree. 1 June 2014. (7/24/14)
  3. Chesler P. Worldwide Trends in honor killings. The Middle East Quarterly. Spring 2010, Vol. 17, number 2, page 3-11. Published by the Phyllis Chesler Organization. (7/26/2014)
  4. State of Human Rights in 2013. Published by the Human Rights Committee of Pakistan. March 2014, URL:, ISBN- 978-969-8324-70-4