Honor Killing: A Menace for the Pakistani Society

By Muhammad Babar Khan 

Honor killings have always been a problem in Pakistani society and the government has completely failed in curbing out the menace.

In the month of April 2016 in Jhelum, a man shot his daughter and her husband. The girl was shot only because she went against the wishes of her father and married someone else.

Another case came in the limelight in April 2016 of a man stabbing his sister to death because he heard her talking to a boy on the mobile phone. Another case got the attention of media that is of a 16 year old girl, she was drugged, strangled to death and tied and was left in the car to burn. According to the details, this incident took place on the orders of a 15 members ‘Jirga’ to teach her a lesson for helping her friend flee,  so she marry the man of her choice.

Honor killings have a long history and can be traced back to the times of ancient Rome where the king or the rich had the right to kill an immoral wife or daughter guilty of having sexual relationship with other men. Until the Middle Ages, stoning to death was a very common punishment for adultery under laws in the Middle East and Europe. During the rule of Ottoman Empire, it was a custom in the society for a man to kill his wife if she was found involved in the adultery and man used to sprinkle her blood on his clothes as the proof reclaiming his honor back.

In today’s modern world, honor killings still exist in many countries. In South America, the honor killings are common but are very difficult to distinguish between the woman killed in honor killing or killed for the drugs. This issue came to the limelight in Honduras after the murder of Miss Honduras, Maria Jode Alvarado in 2014. In Brazil, until 1991 honor killings were allowed and accepted by the society. Due to this, many women were killed every year in the name of so called honor.

But nowhere in the world have the honor killings take place with such frequency as in Pakistan. As estimated according to a survey more than 1,000 women are killed each year in the name of honor killing just on the suspicion of adultery or relationships with other men. The issue of honor killing had always been a taboo topic, but came to the limelight after the high profile murder of Samia Sarwar in year 1999. She was the 29 year old daughter of a well known Pakhtun industrialist, Ghulam Sarwar Khan Mohmand. She went against the wishes of her family and married an army officer but the family didn’t like it and was threatened by the family, so she took help of Asma Jahangir, who is a well known women’s rights lawyers.

On April 9, 1999, her mother requested to meet her in the lawyer’s offices. During the meeting a man from the family came to the office shot Samia, who died on the spot. Sadly, no one till date has been punished for the heinous crime. These murders have become a norm in these days. These murders go unopposed by the government and due to this reason; it gives killers the free hand to kill anyone just in the name of honor.

An annual report was published by the Pakistan Human Rights Commission in 2016 that gave some of these results; according to the report around 1096 women were killed because they were accused by the family or the relatives for disrespecting the family honor. Most of the victims died from gunshot injuries, by being beaten to death, by being stabbed or being burned alive. The men have also been the target in the honor killings around 88 men have also been killed in the name of honor killings. Out of these victims, around 170 are estimated to be less than 18 years old. The actual figures can be difficult to know because many of these cases go unreported or misreported. One of the major problems in tackling ‘honor’ killings is that the law is too lenient against the killers. This barbaric practice will continue if the doers of these crimes and killers are not harshly prosecuted for committing such heinous crimes.

‘Honor’ killings must be stopped and the government and public both should play a vital role in stopping these crimes as they should be exposed for the barbaric and senseless horror that they are. The government should pass such legislations or bills that should put a stop to honor killings. We must get religious scholars on board as it is a national issue and they must help us eradicate it from our society. But even this is not sufficient, we must outreach, especially to rural areas where we can make community leaders and train them on such issues, who can help the society and can play an important role in communicating the issues to others with mutual respect for the wider traditions of the community and prevent hurting sentiment of a community. Only sustainable campaigns at the grassroots level that can be run in the future with a prospective plan can be helpful in informing, educating and encouraging to change the mindset and one day these campaigns will be a complete success in wiping out this barbaric tradition from Pakistan.

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