Almost every day I go online and Google for news about dishonor killings. It's a bleak and grim ritual, but one I feel compelled to do in honor of all the victims, and one that keeps me ahead of the curve as an activist/humanitarian.
Somehow I stumbled upon this case:
For those who don't care to read it, I'll recap for you. Nowhere in the account is the phrase "honor killing" used. It's a minor miracle I even happened upon it in my daily trolling. But in April 2000, a 69-year-old India native named Chiman Rai who lives in suburban Atlanta allegedly paid $10,000 to a Mississippi hit man to kill his daughter in law of one month, Sparkle Michelle Rai, age 22. Sparkle was stabbed at least 13 times in the torso. She was strangled. And for good measure, her throat was slit. Her killer weighed 300 pounds. He went at her with such force and speed she didn't even have time to throw up her arms in defense. In the next room was her seven-month-old daughter.
Sparkle's crime? Being black. Apparently, Chiman just couldn't deal with his Indian son's marriage to a black woman. Chiman is now on trial in Atlanta for his alleged crime. I just added him to my rogue's gallery:
That's him in the first photograph. For a while there, he had gotten away with it. Might've even gone to his grave with it, except that four years ago one of the women who'd accompanied the hit man that sad day in April 2000 was arrested on drug charges and began to talk. Better late than never, I suppose.
It bothers me that no one is calling this what it plainly is. . .a dishonor killing. The hallmarks are there. Inter alia, these crimes are not indigenous to America, but the father in law is from one of the countries in the dishonor killing zone. He presumably believes Sparkle was of a lower "caste" than his son and, thus, simply not worthy of being admitted to a family with the high standards to which he obviously adheres (yes, my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek). Then there is the hit man. Usually, hit men just use whatever minimal level of force is needed to do the job. There is detachment, not emotion. A quick gunshot to the head, so there's no physical contact. Not this one. He did what Chiman would've done to Sparkle if he weren't such a coward. He was brutal. Went after her with every ounce of his massive body. Stabbed her repeatedly. Strangled her. Slashed her throat. Any one of those should've been enough to do the job. I suspect Chiman instructed the hired help to do it this way, because this is how almost all dishonor killings are done. Complete and utter overkill. Literally.
To be fair, dishonor killings aren't indigenous to the U.S., so few people are trained to know one when they see one. It's rare for police, investigators, prosecutors, social workers, reporters, sometimes even family members to recognize what is really going on in these cases. But it's important that they learn because they are often the first line of defense for these girls and women. They need to be able to identify the early warning signs, appreciate the grave danger these girls and women are in, and help them find their way out of it.
I wonder whether Sparkle had discussed her father in law's attitudes about her to anyone. I wonder whether even she realized the danger she was in by marrying into a family that is so traditional. I wonder, wonder, wonder.
But somewhere out there is another young sparkler living in the danger zone. And I wish there were more people trained and prepared to help her successfully navigate it. It is still a very tough planet for some women. May you rest in peace, Sparkle.
Causes Ellen Sheeley Supports
For All Women Foundation