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Where do we draw the line at cultural customs?

Pakistani man kills his wife for making him a vegetarian dinner.

I know it sounds like a sick and twisted joke but it isn’t.

She cooked him lentils instead of goat meat and he used a washing stick to beat her to death, then called his son saying that he killed his mother and he had to come over right away.

The defense?


So as long as we cite “cultural custom” or “religious custom”, we can pretty much do whatever the hell we want?

In that case, raping, pedophilia, murder.. we just have to say that’s how it’s done in my culture/religion and it makes it OK?

For me, there are basic human rights, regardless of these customs.

I know it’s acceptable in those countries but he was living Brooklyn with his wife, and in the U.S., it is NOT an acceptable custom to physically abuse your wife.

Do people still do it?

Of course, but it doesn’t make it right.

What a sick culture to be part of.

I feel incredibly sad on behalf of this poor deceased woman and of all women who are told this is acceptable behaviour and who have to comply with this bullsh*t.

It is a horrible thing to be told you are allowed to be abused just because you happen to be a woman, and even worse that little boys are taught this and grow up believing in it as well.

Where do we draw the line at cultural / religious customs as a defense?



  • Stephanie

    I have not thought about it enough to know where to draw the line, but I think that I’d agree with Esther. That said, I believe that the consensus among philosophers who debate ethics is that moral relativism (like the argument coming from that defense lawyer) is illogical (which is not okay), and therefore should never ever be used in court. (At least that’s what my philosophy professor said. I don’t know firsthand.) My guess that gives a benefit-of-the-doubt to the defense lawyer is that she knows that he is damned guilty, can’t come up with a good argument to defend him, and said that statement in order to provide the legal defense that the Constitution entitles him to.

    Of course, what is moral depends on what axioms you start with. I don’t know what philosophers start with, but I’d bet that “all humans are equal” is one of them.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Hmm you make a good point. I should ask BF who is a lifelong student of philosophy what they say about ethics and moral relativism.

      It’s just so heartbreakingly sad to read such things happening to other women who don’t deserve it (not that anyone else), and then this recent shooting by this Elliot freak who thought he deserved a girlfriend for being a superior human being is just so painful.

  • debt debs

    The world has become so much smaller and advanced with the growth in technology, and yet by comparison, incidents like this make it seem like we are still standing still.

  • GirlinaTrenchcoat

    Honor killings, especially for women (although men can be victims as well) who choose to marry someone outside of their ethnicity, religion, or basically any reason that does not meet with family approval.

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    Great and important point. Yet another reason religion is not for me.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I abstain from religion but I am not intolerant of it. I am intolerant of those who think their religion is the only way to live and everything else is unacceptable.

  • Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way

    Sad but it’s true, many women are abused by their partners, especially if they have different religions and beliefs. Some cultural beliefs are really unacceptable and injustice and they think that women are just their slaves.

  • Kathy

    I sincerely think you are brave to address this. In the U.S. we have been forced to be so politically correct that we seemingly are not allowed to disagree with ANYTHING without being labeled racist, xenophobe, homophobe etc. One of our senators spoke on the senate floor the other day claiming that any time someone disagreed with one of Obama’s policies it was because we hated having a black president. Excuse me but didn’t people disagree with presidents before him? Anyway, I agree with everything you say in this post. There has to be a line drawn when we are able to criticize abhorrent behavior even if it is part of the black culture, Muslim culture, Aboriginal culture or anything else.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I don’t bloody care about being politically correct when it’s a question of basic human rights. I don’t think anyone should be subjugated to slavery (direct or indirect), nor told that it is a gender’s RIGHT to beat them because they are of a different gender.

      Everyone was a baby once, and everyone came out of a mother, a woman. Would anyone think it is acceptable for a baby boy to abuse and beat his mother to death because she’s a woman? (Being sarcastic / ridiculous / facetious here to make a point).

      Babies and children don’t come out hating anyone or anything, they learn it from those who take care of them.

      We should be able to criticize and say it is unacceptable to treat people like that, period, without having to worry about the race card, the gender card, or whatever politically correct cards are available out there.

  • SarahN

    This is SO hard. In a lot of ways, it brings me to the culture at my specific work – and thinking long long term. The legislation is SO heavy now, it’s crippling, and so safety focused. I wonder how long it is til we import undocumented workers, who we let die, and move on? Seriously though, that’s how UAE has thrived, and to an extent, the US, and parts of Europe…. Scary but true.

    Anyhow, I think human life is scared, and I think whilst I sometimes rationalise one life against many (in those sorts of ‘what would you do’ moments you see on TV shows), I think that’s the line you draw. I think rape/murder etc, all that should come with a punishment of lifelong servitude. not a life of nothing in prison, I think it should come with a life of bathroom cleaning, and mopping public transit stations, and generally contributing to life. Thoughts?

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Oh that’s a good idea. Lifelong servitude to give back a small part of what has been stolen. You can’t replace a human life, but you can certainly atone for it until your dying day.

      What bothered me the most about this whole thing is that for one thing, they’re living in the U.S., they aren’t in Pakistan, so laws of that country of not being able to abuse your life should be enforced, religious or cultural customs be damned.

      I mean, if you were to go visit the Middle East, as a woman you’d have to cover your hair, shoulders and legs out of respect for their cultural/religious customs, and follow their country’s rules, so why is it not the same in the U.S. (following the country’s rules)? I’m using a very weak link to explain my point but I think you get it.

      • GirlinaTrenchcoat

        @save. spend. splurge.: It’s always hard not to step on toes when it comes to certain cultural/religious beliefs. Like how France implemented the “no headcoverings” rule and there was a huge uproar about it for some groups.

        • save. spend. splurge.

          But at least the rule wasn’t something that would be akin to condoning abuse.

          Quebec has a similar stance. No religious beliefs being shown, so you aren’t allowed to wear headscarves (I think) either. You also can’t wear a cross or anything to show what religion you follow.

          Not being from those cultures / religions, it doesn’t bother me and I can see WHY it’s like that, so that everyone is treated equally, but I can also see how it’s something people would get angry over.

      • Kathy

        @save. spend. splurge.: There is a segment of people in the U.S. that think 1)Any other culture is better than ours or 2)Any other culture is at least as good as ours no matter what the cultural practice. As this segment of people take over our education system and have free rein to indoctrinate our kids from grammar school all the way through college -where speech codes are actually enforced on some campuses- we will soon be subjugated and have to endure thought control. I know there are those who will call me paranoid but I read about it on the internet and print publications and hear about it on television. It does exist people and if you utter an offensive comment in the privacy of your own home and someone records you, you can have your property and thus your livelihood taken away. I probably shouldn’t comment on this since I can rant for a verrrry looonnnng time about it!

        • save. spend. splurge.

          This ‘Big Brother is Watching You’ kind of reality exists. I’m sure it does, just as I am sure that cellphone companies and the government ARE recording what you are saying on your cellphone even if they aren’t specifically listening to YOUR recording, they are recording it for posterity and are going to use what you said just in case they find cause.

          The line for privacy is a shaky one for me. In regards to this cultural customs bit, I am black and white on it, but privacy is one of those things where yes, I want to feel safe and protected but no, I don’t want the government to take away my free will either.

          I don’t think any one culture is the best, but I am willing to say that there are some cultures that are DEFINITELY better than others. *cough*

          “Thought control” scares me. I was mulling over a post the other day about Freedom. Have yet to finish it 🙂

  • NZ Muse

    Female genital mutiliation. Or any sort of violence/harm.

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