Real threat of honour killings in NZ, women’s group says

Ranjeeta Sharma

Honour killings have taken place in New Zealand, a spokesperson for an ethnic women’s group says.

The comment comes in the wake of the death of 28-year-old Fijian Indian Ranjeeta Sharma, who was found burnt to death on the side of a rural Huntly road.

Herald inquiries have revealed that Mrs Sharma – a nurse at Middlemore Hospital – was involved in a violent marriage and moved out of her Manurewa home recently, after complaining of being beaten by her husband.

Her husband and four-year-old son have fled to Fiji.

There is speculation Mrs Sharma’s death may have been an honour killing, although some Indian groups have dismissed the suggestion.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan, from Shakti, a support group for women from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, told Radio New Zealand she could not comment on whether Mrs Sharma’s death was an honour killing.

But she said honour killings had “absolutely” occurred in New Zealand.

“There has been one that has been proven to my knowledge to have been an honour killing, this was some years back, but the nature of honour killings is such that they are made to look like accidents or suicides.”

Ms Radhakrishnan said women had approached the organisation in fear.

“Unfortunately we get quite a high number of women who have been threatened to be killed.

“We’ve had women seek our support and tell us they’ve been told they’ve acted dishonourably by dressing in Western clothes or talking to men, having a boyfriend, things that are deemed acceptable in New Zealand society but may not be in the male-dominated families that they come from.”

Ms Radhakrishnan said while honour in Western culture is associated with individual integrity, in more communal societies the social behaviours of individuals was reflected on the collective.

“Which means then that if an individual is perceived to have acted dishonourably the onus is on the collective to take social justice into their hands and to mete out punishment to restore honour.

“If the transgression is deemed severe enough then the ultimate punishment is death.”

However, Tika Ram, a former member of Satsangramayan Mandali, an Auckland-based Indian religious society, told the Herald honour killings were “very uncommon” in Fiji, while Auckland Indian Society president Harshad Patel said media speculation Mrs Sharma’s death was an “honour killing” was premature and it seemed unlikely to be the case.

“In civilised societies you don’t see this sort of thing, especially in New Zealand.”

Real threat of honour killings in NZ, women’s group says