Women protest against Jordan's government in Amman, 4 February 2011.
Women protest against Jordan's government in Amman, 4 February 2011. Reuters

A 22-year-old Jordanian woman has reportedly been stabbed to death by her brother in a possible honour killing.

Police are questioning the victim's brother, 33, in connection with the incident in the village of Baoun, 70km northwest of Amman.

The suspect is thought to have stabbed his sister once, in the side of her chest, during a heated exchange at his home.

A source close to the investigation told the Jordan Times that the siblings were embroiled in a long-running argument, which began when the victim divorced her husband a year ago.

The source implied that the murder was motivated by family honour, saying: "It seems that the suspect was constantly arguing with his sister about her movements, and was attempting to restrict her mobility because she was a divorced woman."

However Lt Col Mohammad Khatib, spokesperson for the Public Security Department, said the death was the "result of family feuds", and "the family honour motive is ruled out."

A history of dishonour

Honour killings have long been a contentious issue in Jordan, with critics often complaining that the punishment for such crimes is too lenient.

Under Jordanian law, murder is punishable by execution. However, until recently, murderers motivated by 'family honour' often received a significantly reduced sentence - in fact many received less than 12 months in prison.

Even though sentences are now stricter, family honour is still regularly cited as a motive for murder.

The Baoun murder comes just weeks after a similar case, in which a man in his forties murdered his divorced sister by stabbing her repeatedly before running her over in his car.

Shortly after the incident, a police spokesman told the AFP that the man had confessed, "claiming his divorced sister had indulged in suspicious behaviour".

At around the same time, a young woman was reportedly killed by her father after she gave birth to a girl out of wedlock.

Women's groups have launched a series of campaigns asking for tougher laws and more rights, including the "Like Me, Like You" campaign, and the "It Is Not Clever" campaign, to raise awareness about the issue of honour killing.

Activists also set up another campaign, entitled "My mother Is Jordanian and Her Citizenship Is My Right," which calls on the government to allow Jordanian women to pass down their citizenship to their children.