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16 June 2015
Honor Violence in the USA: Another Reason to Ratify CEDAW Now

On June 10, UNA-NCA's DC for CEDAW Committee co-hosted a documentary screening of "The Price of Honor" and a discussion on "honor violence" at the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center.

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Opening remarks were provided by Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), who discussed the importance of women’s rights and the continued need to invest in women.

Following her introduction, activist and co-creator of “The Price of Honor” introduction, an abridged version of the 2014 documentary, “The Price of Honor,” was screened. The film highlighted the case of Amina and Sarah Said, victims of honor killing in Irving, Texas in 2008. Following 7 years of dormancy, the case was picked up by the FBI after the premier of the film in Dallas.

Amy Logan, producer of the documentary, then moderated a panel discussion that spoke to the importance of comprehensive legislation and the need for 
a cultural paradigm shift to remedy the widespread problem of honor killing. Panelists included:

  • Naila Amin, American forced child marriage survivor
  • Xoel Pamos, activist and co-creator of “The Price of Honor”
  • Amy Logan, “The Price of Honor” producer, activist & author
  • Cynthia Helba, Westat researcher leading work on honor violence for DOJ
  • Stephanie Baric, Executive Director of the AHA Foundation
  • Jennifer McCleary-Sills, gender violence expert, International Center for Research on Women
  • Ruth Trotter, honor violence activist
  • Zainab Zeb Khan, global women’s rights activist; President of MALA
  • June Zeitlin, Director of Human Rights Policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

CEDAWphoto3Child marriage survivor Naila Amin’s personal experience in Pakistan highlighted the importance of distinctly defining honor violence, and addressing it as a global issue, not specific to one region or culture. According to the AHA Foundation, honor violence is typically seen in the form of physical or emotional abuse, sexual assault, rape or kidnapping - but it also includes female genital mutilation, forced marriage and in extreme cases, murder. In sharp contrast to other forms of domestic violence, honor violence is often condoned by families and communities, making it particularly difficult to identify and stop. Sadly, it often involves several perpetrators within the family or community.

Westat researcher Cynthia Helba informed attendees that lack of empirical evidence and awareness are major obstacles that honor violence projects face. To study this issue, it is important to bring cases to light, inform communities and women about what honor violence is, and change their attitudes about it. Stephanie Baric contended that mitigating honor violence would require a holistic approach involving community education, empowerment of women, and a change in societal values to address this issue. 

The resolution that coincided with the screening, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), functions as an “international bill of rights for women.” It provides a definition of discrimination against women, affirms women’s equality to men, and commits states to ensuring that women receive equal rights. At this time, only seven countries out of a total of 194 UN member states, have not ratified CEDAW—including the U.S., Iran, Somalia, and Sudan. CEDAWphoto2

House Resolution 145, sponsored and co-sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), calls on the Senate to ratify CEDAW. Ratification of CEDAW could mitigate issues like honor violence that are facing women and girls, create new legal standards in dealing with cases like Amina and Sarah Said, and advance women’s rights in the US and beyond. 

Special thanks to Ellie Van Houtte for donating her photography services, and to the following co-hosts of this event:

  • ICAN - International Civil Society Action Network
  • Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
  • AHA Foundation
  • Jewish Women International
  • Muslim American Leadership Alliance
  • Muslims Facing Tomorrow
  • Never a Memory Foundation
  • The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
  • UN Association of the National Capital Area, CEDAW in DC Committee
  • US National Committee for UN Women, National Capital Chapter
  • WIN – Women’s Information Network
  • Women’s Voices Now
  • YWCA National Capital Area