Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : Politics Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

Murder! 

In the name of Allah or the Christian God of property?

 

The Melbourne Age Opinion Page, Thursday February 1, 2001.

Pamela Bone (The Age/No honor in barbarism, Thursday January 25) deserves praise for having the courage to condemn the barbarism of ‘honor killings’ and clitoridectomy. The killing of women, whether under the Islamic veil or in a mini skirt at the hands of a raving Jordanian or a bloke in Western jeans deserves condemnation. However such is Pamela’s focus on the alleged sins of Islam she ends up sounding like a modern day Crusader oblivious to the hypocrisy of Western ‘law’.

 

 

Ironically, on the very day Bone was attributing all manner of darkness to Islam and the culture of the veil the Age told of an alleged rape victim being asked by defence counsel to explain why she was photographed semi-naked with the accused four years earlier. If only she’d worn a veil! 

 

It wasn’t long ago Australian courts demanded a woman who "cried rape" chronicle her sexual history and the prosecution show evidence of struggle by the victim against the alleged rape. And we all remember the protests outside the Age in August 1991 after the judge in R v Hakopian ‘discounted’ the penalty on the grounds that the woman Hakopian raped was a sex worker and therefore less likely to be traumatised by rape than a ‘chaste woman’. So much for the civilised West!

 

One must wonder what Heather Osland, sentenced to 15 years for the murder of her pathologically violent husband, makes of suggestions that our courts are free of notions of male honor or gender bias. Despite Osland’s son wielding the piece of pipe that killed her husband, he was freed. And although Justice Kirby relied heavily on the "sanctity of human life’ when rejecting Osland’s appeal to the High Court some have asked whether flawed cultural assumptions and the sanctity of man’s place in the home wasn’t the real sub-text. For while a pardon by the Victorian Government might free Osland it will do and say nothing about the notions of woman as property that continue to underpin so many legal judgments.

 

For every sensational so-called ‘honor killing’ in ‘exotic’ eastern lands there’s a plain garden variety in a Supreme Court just beyond the gaze of middle class Australia. In 1982 not a soul protested when Justice Lush allowed a defence of provocation in R v Dincer. In fact former Governor, Justice James Gobbo, later labelled it a "difficult case" and praised the law of provocation as an example of the "flexibility and humanity of the common law". 

 

Dincer had stabbed his 16-year old daughter Zerrin to death in the bedroom of her boyfriend’s house. In the accused man’s ‘Turkishness’ defence counsel Colin Lovitt found an opening. Zerrin’s relationship with her boyfriend, he argued, had brought dishonor to the father’s family and to his position in the community. That’s why he ‘lost control’ drew the knife from his sock and killed her, the court was told. It worked. Dincer was found guilty only of manslaughter in a case that at first glance appears to mimic the killings about which Pamela Bone writes.

 

But was this case really about Islam and cultural distinctiveness? Or beneath the superficiality and arguments about ‘cultural relativity’ were deep-seated barbaric assumptions about the proprietorial rights of men, irrespective of race or culture, at work? After all when a Turkish bloke by the name of Caliskan killed a man who offered him lemonade, which defence said implied "effeminacy in Turkish culture", the Court was unmoved by appeals to ‘cultural relativity’. Maybe a contemporary judgement by Justice George Hampel throws some light on this anomaly.

 

On February 10 1989 in R v Keogh Justice Hampel told Legal Counsel he proposed to "give the jury the appropriate directions (to allow a defence of provocation) in accordance with Dincer’s case". This meant the jury had to consider the characteristics of the accused when asking whether an ordinary man might have done what he did. Having stabbed his ex-girlfriend, Vicki Cleary, to death outside the kindergarten where she worked Peter Keogh was subsequently acquitted of murder on the grounds that, like Dincer, he’d ‘lost control’. He served three and half years for the manslaughter of my sister.

 

 

The real link between the rulings in R v Dincer and R v Keogh is the killing of a woman. Even without the ‘Muslim’ card Dincer’s barrister would have argued ‘family honor’ and documented for the jury, as is routine in such cases, a series of provocative acts by the dead girl. Ultimately these killings and the trials that follow are as much about male honor as the actions of the raving Jordanian. That’s why neither jury could find the Catholic Keogh or Muslim Dincer guilty of murder.

 

Hair-raising stories of local women being stabbed, bashed with a drill, or shot in front of their children by their ‘ex’ in the name of love – a euphemism for honor – only to result in a verdict of not guilty to murder are not a relic of Victorian England or Islam. The records of our own criminal justice system are so full of them it would make you cry. If sensational stories involving the reciting of the Koran as a prelude to murder capture your imagination I suggest you pop into the Supreme Court sometime when a bloke’s pleading provocation for the killing of a woman. It’s as profound a lesson in barbarism as I’ve encountered and a salutary reminder that ‘honor killings’ know no cultural boundaries.

 

 

Phil Cleary

 

 


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