Many Jordan teenagers 'support honour killings'

Queen Rania of Jordan, May 2013 Jordan's Queen Rania has campaigned against honour killings

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A significant proportion of teenagers in Jordan think that honour killing is morally right, a study by researchers in the UK suggests.

One third of those interviewed for the study said murder was a justified punishment for women or girls if they shamed their families.

The researchers from Cambridge University's Institute of Criminology interviewed more than 850 students.

They came from a range of secondary schools across the capital, Amman.

The schools included private and state institutions, and were both mixed and single gender.

"The sample is large enough to draw valid conclusions about adolescents in the capital of Jordan, Amman," Professor Manuel Eisner, the main supervisor of the study, told the BBC.

The researchers say the study, released on Thursday, is one of the first to attempt to gauge cultural attitudes to honour killings in the region.

The United Nations estimates that around 5,000 women are killed annually in honour-related crimes.

Women's advocacy groups, however, suspect that more than 20,000 women are killed worldwide each year.

'Shocked'

Researchers asked the teenagers to react to different situations in which they thought it may be justified to kill a person.

In total, 33.4% of all respondents either "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with situations depicting honour killings.

Almost half of the male respondents and one in five female respondents advocated killing women or girls if they committed adultery.

"When we first examined the data, we were in fact shocked about the high proportion of adolescents who said that they find honour killings acceptable," said Professor Eisner, who directs Cambridge University's Violence Research Centre.

The study suggests that attitudes towards honour killings were connected to tribal traditions that place emphasis on female virtue and chastity, rather than on religion.

The researchers did not collect data outside the capital.

"We would expect that in the more rural and traditional parts of Jordan, support for honour killings would be even higher," said Professor Eisner.

According to recent estimates by the non-governmental National Council of Family Affairs in Jordan, up to 50 women and girls were killed in the last 13 years.

But the real figure is likely to be far higher, since most honour killings go unreported.

Jordan's Queen Rania champions women's issues in the kingdom, and has long campaigned against honour killings.

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