• LEBANON \ May 14, 2001
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    Beirut hosts 'honour killing' conference
Beirut hosts 'honour killing' conference In Lebanon a two-day conference is looking into a phenomenon known as 'honour killings', when men kill female relatives to redeem the family's name.

The conference has recommended further changes to the law to remove the possibility of the perpetrators benefiting from carrying out the killing.

In Lebanon, one of the most westernised countries of the region, an average of one woman per month is killed by a close male relative who says she has soiled the honour of the family by committing adultery or engaging in pre-marital sexual relations.

Men can serve only a few months in jail for killing a female relative

This figure was given by lawyers speaking at the Beirut conference.

It is based on cases that have come to court. Lawyers believe the real figures are much higher but are difficult to estimate because the killings are often disguised as accidents.

According to one speaker, the crimes often have hidden motives - men wanting to get rid of their wives to marry again, or fathers trying to hide their rape of their own daughter.

Many of the men who commit these crimes turn themselves in and confess they did it to cleanse the honour of the family.

They still believe they will be pardoned by the law.

Extenuating circumstances

What they do not know is that the law was amended in 1999 and pardons are no longer given.

They still benefit, however, from extenuating circumstances which means that instead of the usual death sentence they can end up with just a few months in jail.

No such extenuating circumstances exist for women who might kill their adulterous husbands in a fit of rage.

Many men, and often judges, are against further amendments and claim that if misbehaviour by women is legally sanctioned it will open the doors to immoral behaviour and decadence.

At the conference everybody agreed on the need to continue the legal battle against extenuating circumstances for such a crime.

A marked lack of debate was perhaps due to the fact that men represented only around three percent of the audience.