By Farheen Farooq
A woman can be targeted for murder for a variety of reasons, including refusing to enter into an arranged marriage or seeking a divorce or separation, possibly from an abusive husband. The mere suspicion that a woman has acted in a manner that could damage her family’s name may trigger an attack; these assumptions are generally based on men’s feelings and perceptions rather than on objective truth. Ironically, female relatives often defend the killings and occasionally help set them up.
Pakistan-based Advocate of District Court Rawalpindi said, “Honour killings are increasing day by day. Cases of honour killings in Punjab , Pakistan has increased by 20% as compared to past years and still every year the numbers are increasing rather than decreasing.”
She added, “You can take reference from Qandeel Baloch’s case. Baloch was an activist, model and actress who had provided for her family but she was killed by her own brother on the name of ‘honour’. Isn’t it heart wrenching? Like is this word ‘honour’ more important than a human life?”
Although such crimes are widely suspected to be under reported, The United Nations Population fund estimates that as many as 5,000 women are killed annually for reasons of honour. These crimes take place throughout the world and are not limited to one specific religion or faith. However, they have rather significantly and consistently occurred in various parts of the Middle East and South Asia, with nearly half of all honour killings occurring in India and Pakistan.
Honour killings are at the top of the list of issues mostly faced by women in Pakistan. One-fifth of the world’s honour killings cases occur in Pakistan.
According to Human Rights Watch, every year 1000 women are killed in the name of honour in Pakistan. Although this number is uncertain because many cases are never reported.
Miss Asia Jamil, A student journalist from the University of South Wales said, ” How can killing be linked with honour? This is legally, morally, ethically and religiously unacceptable. This International Women’s Day we must stand against the evil of honour killing. Many precious lives are wasted because of this cruel tradition and now is the time to take action against it.”
The most common reasons for these killings are: unacceptable relationships, inappropriate clothing, demand for divorce or the refusal of an arranged marriage. There have been many such incidents when a girl got married with her choice and was later killed by family members.
“Honour killing is a heinous offence prosecuted under section 302/ 311 of Pakistan penal code and is a non-bailable as well as a non-compoundable offence. Some of the prominent reasons due to which most of the honour killing cases end up in non conviction of the accused are poor investigation, lack of facilities within police/investigation agencies / prosecution departments and of lack of evidence. Another major reason is that common people do not cooperate in investigation or give evidence in such like cases.” said Pakistan based Lawyer, Asim Khan.
Mr. Khan further said, “Offences committed in the name or on the pretext of honour means an offence committed in the name or on the pretext of karo kari, siyah kari or similar other customs and practices. The cases of honour killing in Pakistan are on the rise. According to The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan approximately 15222 cases of Honour Killing took place from 2004-2016. In many cases of honour killing, Islamic teachings, morals and values are given as a justification for committing this crime. However, this is only due to the misinterpretation of Islamic teachings and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). Nowhere in the Quran or Sunnah is murdering someone justified and no one, in any case, is allowed to take the law in their own hands.”
One thing that is frequently repeated in the patriarchal society is that the honour of the family is always attributed to the girl, any of her actions or decisions will tarnish the honour of the whole family. That is why whether it is a jirga decision or a family fight (which is caused by the men) their women have to bear the brunt of it while in case of refusal, the girl is considered a bad character. If a girl is tired of married life or wants to get married of her own free will, it is still considered immoral.
Although human rights organisations are active in Pakistan and are providing all possible assistance, such organisations are generally accused of working on foreign agendas and criticised for so-called misleading society.
There is an urgent need to ensure education, social awareness,awareness of laws and justice to prevent such incidents in the future.
Farheen Farooq is from Pirpiai, District Nowshera, Pakistan. She graduated from the department of Journalism and Mass Communication , University of Peshawar. She is a writer for Peshawar Today, khyber Mail magazine.
Selected and edited by Asia Jamil a journalism student at USW, an initiative she developed to give a platform to journalists in her network