Discrimination against women is not a tradition, but a political instrument.

The Dictionary of the Spanish Language, in its version updated to 2021, defines honour – among other meanings – as “Good opinion earned by honesty and modesty in women”. Implicit in this statement is a discriminatory stereotype, which demands that women behave in a certain way, subject to censure, with regard to their sexuality and their relationship with others. This view of social expectations towards female sexuality is projected as a value, even though it carries a strong charge of prejudice and the ratification of patriarchal authority, from which a differentiated treatment of men and women is legitimised and supported.

The impact of the idea of honour on the lives of millions of women around the world does not stop at the level of conduct. It also affects their freedom, lifestyle and opportunities for development, to the point of threatening their very survival. Because of this dubious conception of “honour”, women from different cultures are victims of torture, stoning and death. They are raped and stripped of their property, taken away from their children and expelled from their homes. For the sake of honour, abominable crimes are committed against them, which – also for the sake of honour – go unpunished because their perpetrators are protected by the legitimacy of the law.

Under the guise of culture and tradition, the most abominable sexual abuses against girls, boys, adolescents and women are committed all over the world. It is a question of patriarchal power and the perpetrators end up being protected by a legal framework in whose nebulous legal framework sexual crimes are protected. The level of impunity for these crimes, usually committed by men close to their victims, is a true form of torture. And this impunity is due precisely to the deep-rooted, archaic and distorted concept of honour, according to which families affected by a sex crime against one of their members would suffer ostracism and marginalisation by the rest of their community. A punishment that is not only unjust, but also marked by a profundity of contempt for feminine nature.

The concept of honour must undergo a profound revision. It is not acceptable, in a society of this century, to attribute to a woman’s intimate and personal life – which belongs to her alone – the weight of the reputation of an entire social group and much less the moral condemnation for the way she chooses to live.

Nor is it acceptable – indeed, it is a monstrosity by any standard – to condemn girls to repeated sexual abuse by appealing to honour, because from the moment the crime is perpetrated and the witnesses remain silent, that supposed honour has already been destroyed. Complicity in this kind of barbaric act is as perverse and culpable as the commission of the crime itself, and there is no excuse whatsoever to protect it.

Honour, as the DRAE itself points out, is a moral quality. The concealment of criminal acts is not. That is why this reflection should strike deep into the conscience of those in our countries – as in India, Pakistan, the United States, Brazil or any other country in the world – who place the concept of honour in the female sex, condemn it, brand it with fire, violate it and demonise it by force of prohibitions, creeds and myths.

If we are capable of taking science and art to levels of sublime exquisiteness, if humanity struts with the development of its great achievements, if we consider ourselves superior to all species, then we are obliged to redefine archaic concepts whose validity belies all of the above and places us on the lowest rung of the ladder. The de-satanisation of female nature is a moral obligation of societies and also a historical debt. Religious creeds, whose tenets insist on discriminating against women, must undergo a fundamental overhaul and correct the conceptual aberrations whose force continues to cause so much harm to more than half of the population.

The concept of honour cannot reside in discrimination, punishment and marginalisation.