Honor killings are often a result of strongly misogynistic views towards women, and the position of women in society. In these traditionally male-dominated societies women are dependent first on their father and then on their husband, whom they are expected to obey. Women are viewed as property and not as individuals with their own agency. As such, they must submit to male authority figures in the family – failure to do so can result in extreme violence as punishment. Violence is seen as a way of ensuring compliance and preventing rebellion. According to Shahid Khan, a professor at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan: "Women are considered the property of the males in their family irrespective of their class, ethnic, or religious group. The owner of the property has the right to decide its fate. The concept of ownership has turned women into a commodity which can be exchanged, bought and sold". In such cultures, women are not allowed to take control over their bodies and sexuality: these are the property of the males of the family, the father (and other male relatives) who must ensure virginity until marriage; and then the husband to whom his wife's sexuality is subordinated – a woman must not undermine the ownership rights of her guardian by engaging in premarital sex or adultery.
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Honor killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage , being the victim of a sexual assault , seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or (allegedly) committing adultery . The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that "dishonors" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.