No Honor in Killing – Standing up to Violence against Women in Pakistan
A society is said to be ideal when men and women have equal rights. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we are living in a society where the rights of women are violated every day. If we take a look at our society, every other woman is a victim of some kind of violence or injustice. Ironically some of the most brutal crimes against women are committed in the name of honor.
Honor killing is defined as “homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family or community” (Moreno et al, 2015). According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Report (2008) an estimated 2000 women were killed between 2005 and 2008, and 2647 in 2009 alone, in the name of honor. International statistics estimate that 12 woman are killed in the name of honor each year in United Kingdom (Vatandoost, 2012).
During my research, I came across a case of honor killing. This is the story of a 19 year old girl from Punjab, who became the victim of honor killing when she married a man of her own choice against her family’s wishes. Her father along with her uncle shot and dumped her in the river.
She luckily survived, helped by local police. Later on, her father and uncle were arrested but were released afterwards. The reason being that she was under pressure to forgive them (Kristof, 2016).
It is important to raise this issue, considering the rising incidence of honor killing in the country. However, little has been done to prevent it nationally and globally. When we look at the data, the above story is not the only case reported and many cases remain unreported to protect the name and honor of the family.
International and national law recognizes all humans as equal (Ziaullah, 2010). Males and females both have equal right to make their own decisions. No one has right to imposed their choices on any other person. The reality of our patriarchal society is that a woman must have consent of the head of the family i.e. male and has to act in boundaries as ascribed.
If a girl behaves or acts in an unusual way, is suppressed, even to the extent that her male blood relatives can take her life, so to ‘protect the family honor’. Women have been humiliated, beaten and killed in the name of honor. These acts are done if a woman is suspected to be in premarital sexual relations, prohibited relationships, divorce or victim of sexual assault or rape.
The theoretical framework which can be integrated in above scenario is notion of patriarchy (Ziaullah, 2010). The male is considered as a head of the family and hold rights over the female members. Patriarchal society denies the female capacity to control and make personal life decisions. From her birth the father or brother carries the responsibility while after marriage it’s her husband who holds capacity to make decisions.
This theory typically describes concept of male dominancy and potentiates the risk of violence towards women; and can go for every possible action to protect family in the name of honor. As we have seen in the scenario that the victim was pressurized to marry person chosen by the authoritarians of family and was punished to death when rejection was found.
In the prevalent sociocultural context males are given supremacy over female. On the other hand, if someone notices any violence in nearby, it is considered as a personal matter and whatever decision is made by the head of the family is assumed as being “good will” to the person and family. Hence, violence against women is seen as private or family matter which does not allow anyone to interfere.
It has many devastating effects on women physical and mental health. It deprives women of their sexual and reproductive rights, among others. From the reproductive aspect, it leads to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and low birth weight babies. Studies suggest that in the long term, it contributes to chronic stress, mental trauma and accelerated ageing process.
Socioeconomically, a culture that condones such acts against women will lag behind in equal participation of women in society which hinders development of the family and society as a whole (Moreno et al, 2015). In above scenario, the victim was pressurized to forgive her father, but what would have been done if a female had committed an act of violence against a male member of family?
We need to show true leadership through advocating for the survivors. Enforcement of law and policies should make justice for the victims, and strict action under the legal system should be taken without any discrimination. Thirdly, there should be investment in initiatives promoting gender equality and resisting violence against women.
Lastly, all such cases should be reported and legislation should be involved and strict actions should be taken against perpetrators. With that, penalties should be broadcast through media so that one should think twice before committing such acts that what they have to face if they indulge in such brutal activities (Moreno et al, 2015).
In conclusion, honor killing is one of the worst crimes against humanity which is sadly not uncommon in our society. To ‘honor’ killing, we have lost many precious lives for many years. There has to be a strong system to uphold equal rights and empowerment of women. There is a need to bring change in society which can be achieved through awareness, law enforcement and proper training of the health and legislatives members for the protection of women rights and continuous reinforcement on equal rights for women in society.
Kristof, N. (2016). Her father shot her in the head, as an ‘honour killing’. The Express Tribune. Retrieved from http://tribune.com.pk/story/1038008/her-father-shot-her-in-the-head-as-an-honour-killing
García-Moreno, C., Zimmerman, C., Morris-Gehring, A., Heise, L., Amin, A., Abrahams, N & Watts, C. (2015). Addressing violence against women: a call to action. The Lancet, 385(9978), 1685-1695.
Shaikh, M. A., Kamal, A., & Naqvi, I. (2015). Opinions of university students on honour killings: Perspective from Islamabad and Rawalpindi. JPMA. The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, 65(4), 421-424. Retrieved From https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anila_Kamal/publication/274256834_Opinions_of_university_students_on_honour_killings_Perspective_from_Islamabad_and_Rawalpindi/links/5530d6d00cf20ea0a06f99f5.pdf
Vatandoost, N. (2012). The news coverage of honour killings in Canadian newspapers (Doctoral dissertation, University of Ontario Institute of Technology).Retrieved from http://ir.library.dcuoit.ca/handle/10155/259
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