So-called "honour killings" are rooted in an ancient patriarchal need to control women's sexuality, and sometimes immigrants from regions that embrace such a code cherish it more dearly than those who stay home, a murder trial has heard.

The keenly anticipated testimony came from Shahrzad Mojab, an Iranian-born University of Toronto professor of women's studies who has lectured and written on the topic for many years. She told the trial of three Afghan-Canadians charged with murder that in some cultures, family honour is prized more highly than life.

In traditional, male-dominated societies where honour killings take place as a means of "cleansing" a family from disgrace, honour resides within the female body, and that translates into a ruthless control system that polices and constrains women's every move, Dr. Mojab told the packed courtroom on Monday. And women often participate, she added.

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