If the names Farah Khan, Amandeep Kaur Dhillon or Khatera Sadiqi don't mean anything to you, you're not alone.
But here is why these names are meaningful–each of these girls was killed in the name of "honour" by a family member.
Khan, just five years old, was killed by her father and stepmother because the father didn't believe Farah was actually his daughter. His irrational desire to purify the family name was justification enough, in his mind, to commit such a heinous act.
Dhillon was killed by her father-in-law because the young woman wanted a divorce.
Sadiqi, and her boyfriend, were killed by her brother.
As the most recent "honour killing" trial unfolds in Kingston, (ably reported by Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington) where three members of the Shafia family stand accused of murdering four women in their family, there are some tough questions that need to be asked.
For example, why is it okay, among some in our South Asian community, to physically hurt, or even kill, a family member in the name of honour?
Why is it okay for others in that community to turn a blind eye to this, effectively condoning it as an acceptable practice?
Why aren't more people speaking up and saying enough is enough?
In our often too politically correct world where everyone is afraid of being branded a racist and therefore doesn't speak of such matters, there is a growing problem within some of our immigrant communities — honour-based violence, which in some cases, becomes fatal.
As part of Canada's South Asian community, I am embarrassed we are so dismissive of it.
But there is one woman who hasn't been afraid to shine a light on this issue.
Aruna Papp, who for the past 30 years has worked as a counsellor helping South Asian families dealing with domestic violence, recently told me "honour killings are just the tip of the iceberg." Papp, a survivor of domestic violence, said there are too many girls "walking around with broken arms, broken ribs, cutting themselves in some cases." While there are a dozen or so documented "honour killing" cases in Canada, Papp says this number is meaningless. We don't have accurate statistics because "no one talks about it." In a position paper she released in 2010 with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Papp observed that as laudable as multiculturalism is, it precludes a meaningful discussion of certain cultural values and traditions.
This, in her view, is a big mistake: "'Honour killings' are carried out in order to cleanse the family name and restore the family honour. Unlike Western domestic violence, typically perpetrated bilaterally by one intimate partner on another, honour violence is perpetrated unilaterally within the family: Against girls and women by male relatives — such as fathers, fathers-in-law, brothers, brothers-in-law, husbands and occasionally sons–often with the complicity of older females. 'Honour killing' is an ancient cultural practice in which men murder female relatives in the name of family honour for forced or suspected sexual activity outside the marriage, even when the woman were victims of rape."
A quick web search pointed me to a number of sites that exist solely to help young women who want to escape from their family for fear of persecution if they don't follow traditional values.
One in particular, www.leaveislamsafely.com,has pictures scrolling on the web-site of women who have been victims of "honour killings" all around the world. It's tragic.
I fondly remember a lovely Sikh woman I knew in Winnipeg, a shy person who had a young baby at home following an arranged marriage. She went to India to visit family and mysteriously died.
Her mother, back home in Canada, distraught with grief, had no idea what had happened. As the sad story unfolded, it turned out she had been poisoned by her husband's family.
CLEAN SLATE ON ARRIVAL
When someone immigrates to Canada, they come here with a clean slate, hopefully leaving their tribal issues back in the homeland.
The often-quoted reason to come to this country is to give their children a better life.
However, there will always be those who are either unwilling, or incapable, of accepting Western values.
But killing your child because of it? There is no honour in that.