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Posted in: Honor Killings

Published on Mar 24, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

An Honor Killing That Was Not An Honor Killing After All


Sana Ali, a 17-year-old pregnant Pakistani wife, was found stabbed to death in Bury, England, near Manchester. Sana had been stabbed 46 times. A 7 ½ inch knife had been plunged into her abdomen. At the time, poor Sana was nearly three months pregnant.

Initially, it was assumed that her husband, Sair, had committed an honor killing. He was a philanderer—maybe he wanted to marry his mistress. But Sair had found no fault with Sana; he really had no motive to honor-murder her.

Indeed, as it turned out, Sair did not murder his pregnant wife—shockingly, his jealous mistress, Harmohinder Sanghera ("Mindy"), a dentistry student, did, and she was finally found guilty of killing Sana in a "sustained and ferocious attack."

Sair, a lustful, greedy man, had lied to "Mindy"; he had not told her that he was married. However, he did say that the fact that he's a Shi'a Muslim and "Mindy's" a Sikh meant that "their love could not last."

Nevetheless, it lasted for almost two years. In the midst of his affair with "Mindy," Sair secretly married Sana. He explained his temporary absence by "telling his mistress that he was going to Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage." He hid his double-dealing behind a pretense of holiness.

When "Mindy" discovered the truth, she did not try to kill Sair. She first offered to become his second wife. He turned her down. Then, in a fit of fury, in a jealous rage, "Mindy" slaughtered her innocent, naive, rival.

In 2007, the 23-year-old "Mindy" was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 14 years.

I just today discovered the outcome of this case, which the police had previously considered to be an "honor killing." Clearly, that was not the case. On the off chance that others were misled, as I was, I decided to write about this case and to raise certain questions.

Why is Sair's immorality not considered a crime? Even a sin? His lust, his lies, his arrogance, his sense of entitlement, led to the murder of one pregnant woman and to life imprisonment for the female murderer. Perhaps "Mindy" had also been a virgin. Perhaps she thought that her life would become worthless if Sair did not marry her—no excuse for murder, but it suggests that the kind of culture which prizes virginity above a woman's life is also part of the problem. As is the culture which mainly allows men, not women, to be sexually promiscuous with absolutely no consequence.

No, I am not in favor of female promiscuity either, but verily, this is the season of Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, and Tiger Woods; before that, it was the endless season of Bill Clinton. Most people expect men to cheat and to visit prostitutes. Most people do not expect jilted wives or mistresses to murder each other–and with such ferocity. Alas, I was not surprised by this awful, long denied scenario.

In Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, I document the extent to which women, like men, are sexists. In addition, women feel absolutely entitled to compete against other women–not against men. The female-female competition is both direct and more often indirect and includes ruining another woman's reputation and ensuring that she will be shunned in her previous social circles. Sometimes women also steal (or "win") another woman's job away from her.

After all, wives and mistresses compete for the same position, status, privileges, or "job." They do not often turn on the men who've betrayed them. Instead, they usually turn on each other. In Cambodia, jealous wives throw acid at their husband's girlfriends—not at their philandering husbands. American mistresses not only walk off with another woman's husband—they often fight for custody of that wife's children as well. These days, a mistress (paid and paid differently) also writes tell-alls, not only to gain revenge against a particular man but in order to ruin the wife's life, spoil, or end the marriage that she herself could not have.

All across the world, women uphold and enforce misogynistic customs. They support the Islamic Veil; worse, women also support child, arranged marriage. And, like those women who support female genital mutilation for their daughters, they have a pitiful point. No one will marry a non-mutilated girl; poor families cannot support unmarried daughters. It's as simple and as cruel as that.

For example, in Yemen this past Sunday, thousands of Yemeni women, their faces covered in religious veils, demonstrated outside the parliament to oppose proposed legislation banning the marriage of girls under seventeen. From their point of view, many families are desperately poor, and selling (or getting rid of) girls as young as eight years old is common. Many of the demonstrators taunted the educated women's rights activists as "old maids" who have no children. The veiled women demanded shari'a law, which allows for child marriage.

Oppressed women are very hard on other women and rarely unite. Like men, they tend to "identify with the oppressor" and to uphold the status quo. Actually, women who live in relative freedom also behave badly towards each other as well—but that is another article.

Every day, I hope that women can begin to transform envy into compassion, betrayal into cooperation.

I am such a dreamer.


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