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"Honor Killings" of Women Still in Effect

They're called 'honor killings' and almost always the victim is a woman accused of dishonoring her family. One of the latest incidents occurred recently in Afghanistan, where a female host of a popular television program was murdered. Police suspect the killers may be members of her family. VOA's Melinda Smith has more on the murder of Shaima Reyazee and why the crime of honor killing is so hard to prevent.

Shaima Reyazee had been the female host of a popular Afghan program called "Hop", broadcast on Tolo Television. Young fans tuned in to see her introduce music videos and talk openly with male guests, both considered unacceptable in traditional Afghan society.

In March of this year, conservative Muslim scholars accused Tolo Television of broadcasting programs that were anti-Islamic and Shaima was fired from her job. Before her murder, her friends said she knew her life was in danger.

Masuda Sultan is a member of a group called women for Afghan women. She says, "Shaima was taking a huge risk. Afghanistan is still a conservative society and there were people who had problems with what she was doing."

Afghan police believe the suspects may be her brothers. If true, Shaima's murder follows the tradition of 'honor killings,' an age-old practice in ultra-conservative patriarchal societies. When a woman is believed to have dishonored the family, she can be put to death by relatives or members of the family she marries into.

During the rule of the Taleban, women were routinely stoned to death for allegedly engaging in extramarital relations. The new Afghan constitution, enacted in 2004, guarantees equality between the sexes, yet violence against women still occurs.

While the numbers of honor crimes against Afghan women are hard to come by, the United Nations Population Fund estimates some 5,000 honor crimes against women around the world are committed every year.