Stats And Laws Of Honor Killings Of Women In Pakistan
Feelings and desires expressed by women which are contrary to their family wishes are taken as shame or dishonor for the family which leads toward the cold-blooded murder of an innocent woman. It is termed as honor killing which locally in Pakistan is known as Karo Kari. Islam, the state religion of Pakistan, does not allow honor killings. Religious scholars opine that honor killing is the un-Islamic act because Islam gives adult women the right to marry a man of her choice. Even without her free consent, the marriage is not valid. Only certain practices like adultery after being proved are punishable by death under Sharia Islamic law. Both Quran o Hadis refer that accused partner can’t be punished unless proved by four eyewitnesses who had seen the act. But if he/she cannot support this practice with proofs, the couple would appear before a sharia court, and the accusing spouse would swear to God four times that their accusation was true. And the fifth (oath will be) that the curse of Allah be upon him if he should be among the liars. In the same way, if the blamed spouse then swore to God that they were innocent, neither party will be punished and the couple will be divorced. Islam holding every soul in high esteem does not allow people to take the law into their own hands and govern justice, because doing so will lead toward lawlessness and chaos. Therefore, honor killing has no religious basis, hence this act of uncivilized inhumaneness must be laid on vicious customary practices in Pakistan.
Honor killing is justified for a series of offenses, like refusing to accept an arranged marriage, getting married to the man of own choice, seeking the divorce, raped victim, talking to an unrelated man, and going out of the house without consent. Generally, our society will accept a man who has committed rape, but if a woman is even suspected of an affair it is considered a shame for the family and not forgiven. Also, a man alleged of dishonoring might be provided a chance to explain his side of the story before Jirga or panchayat and can escape punishment. While women are hardly given a chance to clarify their position and are sentenced to death by community leaders to restore the honor of their families. In rare cases, men can also be the victims of honor killing by the family of a woman with whom they are alleged to have a relationship.
In addition to Pakistan, honor killings have also been documented in Bangladesh, India, Egypt, Brazil, UK, Uganda, Turkey, Sweden, Africa, Morocco, Jordan, Italy, Israel, and Ecuador. Over the last two decades, honor killing has been increased immensely at both national and international level; an estimated killing of about 5000 women a year globally (Reported by (UNFPA) the United Nations Population Fund). According to the report of the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network, above one thousand women are murdered annually for the honor in Pakistan. All of these reported cases are not only from backward rural areas, some are also from upper class educated families.
On May 27, 2014, a pregnant woman named Farzana Iqbal was stoned to death by her family members in front of a Pakistani High Court for getting married to the man she loved. Her father on that occasion claimed that he has killed his daughter for marrying a man without his consent. He was not regretting it. In 2015, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Award-winning documentary, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.” was released. It is a distressing story of a woman named Saba Qaiser from Punjab province of Pakistan who loved and married a man to whom her family rejected due to his low status. She was shot in the head, put in a sack, and thrown into a river by her uncle and father. Fortunately, she survived this brutal attack and during her recovery, she was forced by communal leaders to forgive his family members. Forgiveness law was at its place during that time so; finally, she forgave them in court due to the pressure she was receiving. In July 2016, Pakistani celebrity Qandeel Balouch murder case was reported as an act of honor killing in Multan city. Her brother Waseem later confessed that he killed her for bringing shame to the family’s honor which he could not tolerate.
Also in July 2016, a British woman, Samia Shahid, who was living a happy life with her husband in Dubai came to visit her family in Pakistan under the false deception that her father was critically ill. Six days after landing in Pakistan, she was found deceased, strangled, and raped at her Ex-husband’s home, in Punjab Pakistan. She was killed because her family felt shame for divorcing her abusive first husband, Shakeel. According to the report of BBC documentary, Samia was able to escape Shakeel’s attack and run into his hallway but then, she was resisted by her father who nodded Shakeel to strangle Samia. In January 2017, a Pakistani mother burned her daughter alive for bringing dishonor to the family by marrying the man of her own choice. In February 2018, a brother killed her 19-year-old sister for having an affair with her cousin. Prior to her murder, she was declared as a sinful woman by the Jirga. These are some of the reported cases. However, most cases go unreported and delivered off as natural deaths or suicide by family.
As a participant of the United Nations (UN), Pakistan has signed the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which is important international resolution guarding women from gender-based violence. State under CEDAW has an international responsibility to inspect and prosecute brutishness against women.
International treaties should be merged in domestic legislation to become a part of national law in Pakistan. Following CEDAW, 3 Pakistani laws have advanced women’s rights:
- The 2004 Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, (bars the suspected killer from acting as a legal guardian (wali) and thus helping from Islamic qisas (retribution) provisions and diyat (blood money paid to the homicide victim heirs).
- The 2006 Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act (makes difference between rape and Zina (un-lawful consensual sex relation).
- October 2016 anti-honor killing law mandates life imprisonment, 25 years in jail, for sentenced killers even if the family of victim forgives them.
The current spate in honor killings reveals that strict penalties do not spontaneously provide justice to women.
- It should be ensured that police investigate honor killings fairly without bowing to pressure from community leaders, including jirgas.
- The government should also ensure women’s protection when they report threats from their family and provide them access to safe shelter houses.
- Clear guidance should be provided to women before releasing them into their relative’s custody.
- The Pakistani government should act decisively and quickly to ensure that no explication of cultural norms and customs prevails over basic women rights.