Honour Killing in Pakistan

A recent honour killing in Pakistan brings to the fore the issues of human rights in societies involved, and highlights the “honour killing industry.”

SATRAH – In eastern Pakistan’s Punjabi village of Satrah, a young couple was killed for marrying without their families’ permission. Sajjad Ahmed, 31, and Muafia Bibi, 17, had barely been married for a week when the latter’s parents lured them home under the pretext of accepting their marriage. They were subsequently drugged.

“When the couple reached there, they tied them with ropes,” said local police official Rana Zashid. “He (the girl’s father) cut their throats.”

Five have been arrested in connection to the murders including the girl’s father and grandfather.

The local police chief Muhammad Pervaiz said, “It is a case of honour killing. The couple were not beheaded but were killed with the knives and had severe signs of torture on their heads.”

The family was reportedly embarrassed by the girl’s marriage to a man from a tribe of lesser importance.

The couple was brought out to the courtyard for the killing and a crowd had gathered. Muhammad Ijaz, one of the locals, said: “Their legs and arms were tied while their mouths were gagged with pieces of cloth. The father of the girl announced loudly that he was going to slit the throat of her daughter and her husband.”

It was suggested that the children should be sent away but Mrs. Bibi’s father wanted them to watch.

“He said they should learn what would happen to them if they married someone of their own choice,” Ijaz explained.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 869 cases of honour killings were reported in the media last year – several a day – but the true figure was probably much larger since many went unrecorded.

At London Metropolitan University’s International Child Abduction, Relocation and Forced Marriages Conference in 2010, legal experts Anil Malhotra and his brother Ranjit Malhotra said, “They happen not only within the Muslim community but also among Sikhs and Hindus.”

They cited the findings of India Democratic Women’s Association according to which the states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh accounted for about 900 such cases while the rest of the country was responsible for 100-300 killings, every year.

According to the Malhotras, “The total figure for India would be about the same as estimated for Pakistan, which researchers suggest has the highest per capita incidence of honour killings in the world.”

Head of a New Delhi-based NGO for women’s rights, Rajana Kumari explains, “It’s the mindset that women have no rights to decide. That once a decision is made, the family takes any challenge to that decision as a challenge to culture and family and values.”

With a Hindu majority, in India the killings are also caste-related. “In sociological terms, when a woman marries, she goes into the husband’s caste. Men maintain caste if they marry lower caste, not women. So women bring the family status down if they marry to a lower, or even just another caste,” Kumari says.

In Pakistan, because honour killings are seen as justifiable by many citizens and they are sanctioned by tribal councils and ignored by local police, they can often be used as a cover for other crimes. Muhammad Haroon Bahlkani, a Pakistani officer in the Community Development Department in Sindh, said in 2012, “man can murder another man for unrelated reasons, kill one of his own female relatives, and then credibly blame his first victim for dishonouring the second. Or he can simply kill one of his female relatives, accuse someone rich of involvement with her, and extract financial compensation in exchange for forgoing vengeance.” Bahlkani called this the “Honour Killing Industry.”

— Suryatapa Mukherjee, Correspondent (South Asia)

Originally published on The Global Panorama: http://theglobalpanorama.com/honour-killing-in-pakistan/

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