updated 7/9/2007 6:23:06 PM ET 2007-07-09T22:23:06

A Jordanian court sentenced a man to six months in prison Monday for killing his pregnant sister — an “honor killing” the man said was necessary to uphold his family’s reputation.

The court justified the lenient sentence, saying it was warranted due to the “state of fury” that led to the woman’s slaying.

According to the court, when the woman told her brother she was five months pregnant with her former husband’s child, he began chasing her and pulled on her scarf to strangle her. He then put a pillow on her head and sat on it until she suffocated.

The court said the woman’s confession angered her brother and caused him to act in an irrational way. The court also said the woman’s “shameful behavior” deviated from the traditions of Jordanian society and harmed her family’s honor.

In Jordan, an average of 20 women are killed in “honor killings” by male relatives each year. Men have the final say in all family matters in the conservative Muslim society, where many consider sex out of wedlock an indelible stain on a family’s reputation.

Some women in conservative circles of society have been killed simply for dating.

Courts and authorities do not release the names of people involved in honor killing cases.

International human rights organizations have condemned honor killings in Jordan and appealed to the country’s ruler, King Abdullah II, to put an end to the practice.

The government urged judges to consider honor killings equal to other homicides, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. But many judges still hand down lenient punishments.

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