Honour killings are not only predominantly carried out in Pakistan but also in many other countries where society is based on the fundamentals of honor. In such societies, it is believed that the position of an individual is totally dependent on the integrity he or she holds in the eyes of the community they belong to.
The phenomenon: Honour killing, what is it actually?
The term often heard as “karo kari”, a devastating practice in Pakistan is
“basically a murder of a family member mostly by an individual or group of other family members due to the perception of shameful act executed by the victim that has resulted in bringing disgrace to the family or in most cases also the community.”
Honour killings cases are mostly that of women because of a simple reason that a woman is generally believed to be a man’s property, their rebelliousness or betrayal tears apart the fragile honour resulting in the redemption of as much as death. Despite the fact that this horrific act is conducted commonly in our country the deed holds no significance in Quran or Hadith.
Honor killings in Pakistan and also in other societies are gender biased, most of the times the victims are women for reasons such as escaping a forceful marriage, having an affair, living on their own terms or even for wearing western clothes. Not only this but some of the women in Pakistan are also killed in the name of honour after a sexual assault as that too is considered to be a mistake provoked by the victim herself.
If we talk about the current scenario, honour killings are mainly associated with the middle east countries and some other parts of the world including Pakistan, India, U.S, and Europe.
1. Causes of Honor Killing Cases:
Honour killing is a distorting practice that needs to be cured. In order to address this sickening culture to help avoid such ruthless issues, we all need to understand and learn about the facts related to honor killings. Only once we are educated with the root causes of horrific honour killings in Pakistan we will be able to come up with solutions to help stop this not only for a limited time but permanently.
There are numerous devastating shocking causes of honor killings in our state making Pakistan one of the prominent countries where the dreadful act prevails.
Although the causes of honour killings are endless few major ones are enlisted in this piece to help as understand the core reasons leading to the devastation.
1.1 Bringing dishonor by choosing a life partner :
Belonging to an Islamic state the religion gives both the men and women the right to choose the partner for marriage however the society directly or indirectly does not seem to encourage the fact. Having the liberty to choose a partner of your choice is not a shame, it is a fundamental and legitimate right for all. It’s pitiful to learn that unfortunately woman in Pakistan are believed to be man’s commodity they are controlled by fathers, brothers, and husbands. Individuals with such mindsets consider it no honor in respecting and identifying the rights of a woman granted both by the law and Sharia.
Traditionally both in rural and urban culture in our country the head of the family are destined to choose the so-called right spouse for the girl, and even if the girl does not wish to engage in the deed she is thought to remain quiet. Practicing this fearful byplay for centuries woman are forcefully controlled if they try to escape the situation. The redemption for an act where the women succeed in getting away with their choice is murder for the sake of honor.
As per article no 16 of the notable Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“ Men and woman of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights, as to marriage, during the marriage and at its dissolution. “
This law needs to be protected under the governing forces of the country but on the contrary honor killings facts state that over 1000 women are killed each year mainly because they want their own choice in the decision to get married, and not to mention but isn’t that their right?
1.2 Adapting Western lifestyle:
The way a woman dresses up or carries herself is normally an identification of the culture she belongs too. Most women in Pakistan are perceived to fit in the role of an “ ideal woman” and that for most communities is only mirrored by the dress code. However, no doctrine law exists in the country that considers hijab or parda a must. In the past couple of centuries more and more women have been engaging in the marketplace and therefore have adapted convenient or western clothing result in encouraging a woman in both urban and rural areas to change the way they dress. In no way is it commented on being rights but the reality today is that the global media, books, advertisement and most of all internet has played a vital role in giving the necessary and unnecessary exposure to the individuals hence leading to the desire to have a free will for a lifestyle for many.
Individuals with a sickening mindsets find a connection between a woman’s existence and their honor. Everything a woman does is believed to bring either humiliation or pride not only for the family but also for the community. Facts show that one of the major causes of honour killings is adapting westernize culture. If a man does not approve of the way a woman dresses up or maintains a certain lifestyle, he has the right to take necessary action including killing for honour in most cases.
In 2003 a case of a 17-year-old girl Shafilea Ahmed was brought into the limelight when this young girl belonging to a Pakistani family was killed by the parents in the name of honor simply because Shafilea insisted to continue practicing western culture.
1.3 Extramarital Affairs leading to honor killings:
The phenomenon has prevailed extensively in the past couple of years mainly because of our media where the subject is discussed and often encouraged too.
Marriage in Pakistan is considered to be a lifetime commitment. A girl is taught since the day she was born to only leave a husband’s house on death. This is the reason why the word extramarital affair is considered abuse in most household today. No Matter how liberal the society may become, despite the fact the none of us can approve the act the big question does it gives any other individual the right to take away someone’s life?
The stigma of honor killing attached to the society has resulted in giving a free hand to the barbaric citizens to kill the woman engaged in any immoral activity when in a marriage. Extra-marital affairs are no doubt forbidden both in the religion and society but that in no ways allows any individual to take the law in their hand and conduct an even more shameful act by murdering someone. The point here is that whatever the reason for the act, it can be dealt with privacy without having the world to know. The dishonor is brought to the family by the individuals encouraging honour killing and not by the victim.
1.4 Sexual assault victim:
Isn’t the assault bad enough for the victim but to further add to the situation by killing the women in the name of honor. It is just so sad to know that the woman is believed to bring disgrace to a family if she becomes a rape victim. In a society we belong to attempting an assault is not as disgraceful as being a victimized by it.
In 2018 reportedly two sisters were killed for honour simply because they both were abducted and later victimized with rape. The news from Rahim Yar Khan became one of the most highlighted honor killing cases in Pakistan.
1.5 Low Literacy rate:
As per the Economic Survey of Pakistan, the literacy rate of the country is 58 percent which is quite low as compared to many other countries. It is a known fact that only an educated nation can prosper and help establish the development of any country and since most of the men and especially woman are ignorant of education in Pakistan it has resulted in many social issues. One of the prominent honor killings facts is that being uneducated makes a person less exposed to the enlightenment of righteous thoughts and this has to be one of the basic reason our country is experiencing honor killing cases every now and then. Whatever the cause might be leading to the murder be it right or do the individual who is conducting such an inhuman performance must be aware of the fact that the idea itself is obscene. Only if a law for a must education in rural or urban areas is passed we can have a generation that possesses a positive and a liberal mind. By educating the men and woman the focus can be put to problem-solving rather than heartlessly taking extreme steps.
1.6 Gender Discrimination and Tolerance Issues:
Gender discrimination comes across as a leading cause of male domination in our society. This inequality has to lead the men to believe is that if not anything they have the right to control woman. This is one of the core causes why honor killings take place, it gets very hard for a man to digest if a woman tries to maintain her own living standards. Men in Pakistan are not taught or given a brought up in a way to respect woman’s space which is resulted in absolutely no tolerance for any insurgent commotion.
Not only in the rural or remote areas but also in big cities like Karachi and Lahore the tolerance level for a woman’s choice remains absent. And being habitual to the control it gets almost impossible for men to let go of a woman without punishment in case of any rebelliousness.
2. Honor Killing statistics:
The prevalence of honor killing continues in Pakistan, the practice has been and seems to be still considered non-criminal leading to the increase in the statistics of honor killing even in this modern era. On one hand, the woman of Pakistan is making a remarkable reputation in different fields and on the other thousands are killed each year for conducting perceived shameful acts.
The Human Rights Watch states that approximately one thousand honor killings prevail each year. However, historically speaking 70% of honor killing cases are reportedly found in Punjab.
The data will give you a clear idea about how the honor killings have maintained a higher scale in the past few years.
As per Pakistan’s Commission of Human Rights
- 2010: Number of honor killings: (791 While 960 according to Amnesty International)
- 2011: 720
- 2013: 1261 stated by Nilofer Bakhityar
- 2014: 1070
- 2015: 1100
- 2017: 460
3. Laws against Honor killings:
Simple question tough but has a huge impact on the scenario of honor killings in Pakistan. In Pakistan when someone is murdered in the name of honour no one fears punishments because of the simple fact that in all these years the legislation has failed to enforce the laws necessary to help diminish the act.
Recently in 2016, a criminal law bill was passed against the honour killings in Pakistan where it was stated that any individual performing a murder in the name of honour will be deserving a death sentence or a lifetime imprisonment depending on the conditions. Unfortunately, the rate of murders in the name of honor continued even after the anti-honor killing law being passed and the reason simply lies in the failure of execution.
First comes the Jirga system, this arrangement is common in Punjab and Sindh. In the situation of honor killings, a jirga is made to do the justice however the results are dreadful. Not only are the accused sentenced for honour killing but also a way is thought for instance let’s take Ghani Rehams case, in 2017 the jirga had ordered for a death sentence for the girl that too by the means of electrocution.
Then comes to the money making strategy, yes it’s very much true in most of the honor killings cases. When incidents take place if the accused woman dies and the men are left he can trade his life by giving a piece of land or even another woman of his family. Today honour killings are made a mockery as the landlords and tribal groups give the predators of honor killings liberty of forgiveness by gaining benefits.
In the past few years, many criminal laws and reforms have been founded and amended in order to protect women against violence of any sort including fore mostly honour killing but even with the major amendments in the law, the horrific practice continues.
What at the end of the line?
Wrapping things up let’s just say we are hopeful for a better tomorrow. The facts of honour killings cannot be denied under any circumstances, even today it remains one of the most violent issues in Pakistan. Passing a law in hopes of discriminating the deed is not the solution the legislative government must make sure every bit is done to help implicate these laws of honour killing. Many of honour killing cases are not even reported in Pakistan, right now we are only talking based on the reported statistics of honour killing however there is much more to it that we are kept ignorant of.
Plenty of NGO’s and an activist group are doing their bit to help prosper a nation that is free from this stigma, although if the government lays its hand on the head of these organization it can help make a massive impact. The problem can be solved from the grass root level.
Not only the laws related to honor killings must be given their due importance but there is also a need to address the sole issues leading to honour killings. Why the problem occurs is one of the basic loophole still being ignored.
Quick question for all of us is there any hope? Well, there can be if major issues are dealt with efficiency by the Government because at the end of the day it is a matter of human lives that are just given away violently to save don’t know who’s honour!
Muhammad Usman Awan is a Blogger and Social Entrepreneur who founded first Anti Harassment Awareness Campaign “Stop Harassment Now”. The Purpose of this campaign is to empower and educate our Girls and Working Women against Harassment.