Don’t approve? Not a problem but don’t kill in the name of honour

Honour Killing in Pakistan
There is little awareness of the 2004 law on honour killings. The community at large either does not know of it, or does not know the specifics of the law. But what is far worse is that this ignorance also exists within the fundamental players of the justice sector, including the police, lawyers and even judges. And the police is often unwilling to implement the law due to the overwhelming social acceptance of the act and the influence of power holders.

The recent murder of the model turned social media sensation Qandeel Baloch by her brother in Multan has once again refreshed the debate of Honour Killing in Pakistan. Baloch was brutally murdered because of her bold pictures and videos that drew international attention. The term honour killing is centuries old in the subcontinent and locally know as “Karo-Kari.” Originally the term was coined for adulterer and adulteress. However, it started to be used in regards to multiple forms of perceived immoral behaviour. In Pakistan, where men get off the hook easily, unfortunately, women are not so lucky. Once a woman is tagged as a kari, family members deem it an obligation to kill the accused to restore “The Family Honour”. The act is culturally motivated in the rural areas of the country rather than people drawing any significance from Islam.

The Shariah Law has a strict ruling on the adulterer and the adulteress, but in cases where a man and a woman are married legally because of their liking for each other, Islam does not order any punishment. There are many instances where culturally provoked actions of male family members lead to such sad incidents. However, they are not rigorously fought in the court of law because of weak legislations and absolutely no implementation of the legal system, especially in the rural areas of Pakistan.

In the north, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan, women may be stoned to death, burnt alive or tortured for marrying the man of their choices to as simple as walking alone to the market. Although these instances do not happen in the mega cities but are standard practices for the illiterate Pashtuns that reside deep in the tribal areas. In Punjab, women are slain because of affairs without family approval and marrying the men of their choice. Whereas in Sindh and Balochistan reports of honour killings are very low because of weak law and order and highly influential feudal system. The statistics do not come to light on actuals due to inadequate policing and pressure from the bigwigs of the area. In many cases, families pardon the killers as they are their own. Often instructed by themselves to kill in the name of honour.

Also read: Women Protection Bill: What’s all the fuss about?

This is a global problem but rarely addressed. Internationally, these type of incidents are classified under domestic violence and sub-categorised as “Domestic Killings” that include stoning, bride burning, honour killings, and dowry deaths. The investigation into many honour killings in Pakistan has revealed that women in the family also play a significant role in downing their own gender. Where men are frequently held responsible for imparting terror, the females in the households also hold strong opinions on the matter and often incite male members to commit such heinous crime. Just last month a Pakistani mother burned her 16-year-old daughter alive for marrying without family consent in Lahore. These cases aren’t new and will not stop until the STATE fights for these helpless women. The Women Protection Bill is still pending, and its implementation remains dubious because the police are highly politicised and corrupt. There primary purpose is to provide service to the people but instead they are busy in looting and plundering the citizens for their own benefit. Until and unless we lack sincerity in policy making and implementation of the law our women will continue to be killed in the name of honour. Also, education is paramount in changing the mindsets, but if we start from today, it will take us at least 16 to 18 years to make a difference, hoping the young ones will be tuned by education and not by the atmosphere that thrives at home.

Qandeel Baloch was not the first one and certainly not the last one to be killed because of honour. Her popularity highlighted this issue once again, but every day the heart goes out to the thousands of daughters of Pakistan that are killed one after another because their families’ egos are much more honourable than their life.