Honour Killings in Europe

Different approaches; a comparison between responses of honour killings in England and Germany

Essay, 2013

16 Pages, Grade: 5,2


Introduction and Justification

The task of comparative criminal justice is to contrast and compare the ways of responding to crime with practices elsewhere (Nelken, 2010). The rational of this case study is that in industrialised countries such as Germany and England the number of honour killings committed have increased (Schirrmacher, 2009). Cases in both countries have experienced large media attention and have been closely reported. The media in western countries tends to magnify differences especially from and to the Islamic world (Nelken 2010). And the old age ritual of honour killings has stirred up discussions around the issue nationally and internationally (Jafir, 2008). Honour crimes and killings do not only occur in Eastern and Arabian countries such as Pakistan Turkey or Iran etc., through globalisation and the increase of migration, honour killings have become an increasing problem in western countries as well (Schirrmacher, 2009). Continuing improvements of various means of transport and mobility has acquired a new dimension in the world of modernity (Garland, 2001). Globalisation is as Held (1999) writes, the widening deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnections in all aspects of contemporary life. Honour killings are closely linked to globalisation and migration issues.

The most striking similarity between England and Germany is the total number of committed honour killings in the past few years. One can also find high resemblances in the convictions and sentences of perpetrator of honour killings. Despite these similarities the focus is to examine the cultural, social political and historical context of these high profile crimes in both countries.

The United Nation has published a response to crimes in the name of honour against women. In their last resolution from 2004 the UN expressed deep concerns that women and girls continue to be victims of honour based crimes. They remind states to exercise, to prevent, investigate and punish the perpetrators of such crimes committed against women and girls (UN, 2004). This comparative case study will focus on the state responses, which are required by the UN.

Therefore the examination will lay out the differences and similarities of state responses through legislations and police task forces and other law enforcements, how honour killings are recognised by the state in these two European countries. This examination will explore these responses within the cultural political social and historical context. In this project the focus is on honour killings, the extremist form of honour based violence and will undertake a comparison on how these two European countries respond to this violation of human rights in a broader context.


Comparative criminal justice is the study of what people and institutions in different places do, and what reforms can be borrowed from other places (Nelken 2010). We compared the responses to honour killings in Germany and England by expanding our knowledge as to what is possible, and used this knowledge to critically analyse these criminal justice responses (Nelken 2007). The importance of comparative research lies in the understanding and investigation of how certain methods of crime control and crime responses are conditioned within cultural factors (Nelken 2010). By comparing England and Germany one can find two “multi-cultural” societies that experienced important historical events that have shaped their identities and traditions (Kelek 2011). It was of high importance to understand how culture shapes and influences criminal justice systems and policies (Nelken, 2010), and what influence migration had on honour killings. Comparative criminal justice cannot be studied separate from other “systems” such as cultural economical political, historical and social etc. and it cannot be examined using a reductionist approach. One needs to gain a greater understanding of how other countries operate in our global society, with a high movement of people, and how they request cooperation and collaborations (Aas 2007). Comparative criminology involves the identification of similarities and differences to gain a wider knowledge of people, culture and societies to finally understand actions and crime responses (Nelken 2010). This cross-national comparison is based on secondary data, that is collected by governmental bodies and academic data such as governmental and police reports and academic literature around cultural issues and crime.


Any comparative research has inherent problems, which have been widely recognized (Bennet and Lynch 1990). Limitations in comparative methods often appear when comparing statistical data. Even if the internet allows more access to statistical data, the reliability and the accuracy is often a problem (Fileds et al. 2005). Official statistics of crimes from the police can be unpredictable and can vary even within the same jurisdiction (Cavadino and Dignan 2006), for example the different definitions of honour based violence, which includes all variations of violence to statistics about honour killings. In both countries there is a lack of data concerning the exact number of honour killings over the past years (BKA 2005), and only a small number of honour killings have been published in recent years. Numbers are estimated and its reliability has to be critically questioned (Siddiqui 2005). Furthermore one has to acknowledge that the concept of one culture may not mean the same thing in another culture, and policies and concepts may be interpreted and implemented differently in Germany and England (Nelken 2007).

Language barriers as such were not given. Sources from German and English literature and statistics could be both used but we will face problems in terms of linguistic definition problems and their meaning such as for example honour killings are called Ehrenmorde in German and translated word by word it would mean honour murder. Hence we had to conceptualise language differences in a cultural meaning (Bennett 2004). The differences in definitions of crime and various indicators used pose several problems in researching and comparing in cross-national comparisons (Muncie and Goldson, 2005).

One might not be able to compare data one to one (Nelken 2010), as some data are not exclusively for honour killings and some include all kinds of honour bases violence. We used academic and governmental data such as reports and academic literature for this project from the last two decades. Media reports were not used as we primarily looked at formal state responses and did only briefly look at responses below the state such as NGO's, political and feminist groups etc. Finally we had to be aware of not being ethnocentric and false making assumptions, and that what we think about crime and the responding to crime is universally shared or would be right for everyone elsewhere (Nelken 2010). We focused on an evidence based and transcultural knowledge of “what works” in aspects of honour killings (Sherman et al 1997).

To understand the German and English culture and political system we have to give a brief introduction in political and historical events over the last century.


Since 1990 Germany has been a federal republic government, including the former separate East Germany and the former German Democratic Republic. The country consists of sixteen states (German: Bundesländer) and the largest population in Europa with over 83 million inhabitants. The parliament is comprised of 620 members in five parliament groups (Dammer and Fairchild 2006). The counsellor, head of the parliament, exercises executive power over Germany. It is run under a civil law legal system, where law and procedure are governed by separate comprehensive, systematized codes, which are forward looking wishing to anticipate all new problems. Germany is the largest national economy in the European Union and the world’s fourth largest economy. (Deutschland, 2013). Germany is one of the richest nations in the world.


Within the political division of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, England is the largest. As not all states operate under the same law system, only England will be considered for this comparative examination. England has a population of 61 million. It includes forty-seven counties and operates as a capitalist economy, although various forms of socialism have made the country resemble a welfare state (Dammer & Fairchild, 2006). It remains one of the world's greatest trading powers and is one of the largest economies in Europe. England represents a unitary government. The governmental power is therefore centralized rather than being divided in states and a central government, as happens in federal governments such as Germany (Dammer & Fairchild, 2006). What makes the parliament so powerful is that all three branches; executive, judicial and legislative, are contained within the parliament, thus common law legal and executive decisions are made by lower courts. The House of Lords has several important functions such as acting as the highest court of appeals and serving as the reviewer of legislation of the House of Common. The House of Common is the major component of the parliament with its 659 elected members who discuss and vote on legislation proposed by the executive of the House members. The head of state is the prime minister. He acts as an advisor to the monarch and chairs of the cabinet. England is one of the two Common Law countries with the United States.

One of the similarities that can be found with these two countries is that both are wealthy states and both are leading world economies.

The major differences are found in the political and legal systems. England with its centralized government linked to a constitutional monarchy and a common law legal system.

Germany is run as a federal republic and with a civil law legal system (detailed information about differences between Civil Law and Common Law can be found in the appendix 1.).

The historical developments have been different as well, England with its colonialism and Germany the World War II and its impacts on the country.

Important historical developments in Germany

The most important change in German law in modern times was the German civil code which was developed under Bismarck 1870. The German imperium only lasted until end of World War I in 1918. Then republic was formed that ended with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialism in 1933. The National Socialists abolished federalism and made Germany centralized, absolutist and essentially arbitrary and lawless state (Dammer and Fairchild, 2006). Hitler did not only restore economic and military strength, his nationalist themes and aggressive policies, most notably the attempt to eliminate the Jewish population in Europe, led Germany into World War II which lasted from 1939 to 1945 when it then surrendered unconditionally. This war had a major influence on the whole of Europe and involved the vast majority of the world's nations. Germany no longer existed as such. In 1945 Germany was split among the three allies: United States, Britain and the Soviet Union. Soviet forces controlled the eastern half of Germany while West Germany came under supervision of Britain and the United States. Germans had little say in government until 1949 when the Federal Republic of Germany was founded. The former East Germany became a Communist state with a Socialist Law orientation. This situation remained until 1990 when the nation of Germany was reunited after forty-five years of post-war division. (Dammer and Fairchild, 2006).


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Honour Killings in Europe
Different approaches; a comparison between responses of honour killings in England and Germany
Sheffield Hallam University  (Criminology)
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honour, killings, europe, different, england, germany
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Bettina Purcell-Riederer (Author), 2013, Honour Killings in Europe, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/230382


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