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Rise in ‘honour’ crimes

September 13, 2018

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THE number of women — and men — being killed in the name of ‘honour’ keeps rising at a disturbing rate in this country. Only last week, three brutal cases of ‘honour’ crime were reported. A father confessed to killing his daughter, her children and husband in Hafizabad in Punjab because she had married a man of her own choice four years ago. A woman and her teenage neighbour were strangled by the woman’s husband and father in Karachi on the suspicion of an extra-marital affair. In another account, the KP police in Mansehra and Battagram districts have yet to investigate the murder of a married woman and a man — the alleged perpetrators identified by a witness as the woman’s father and grandfather. And these are not isolated incidents. While HRCP documented 737 ‘honour’ crimes between June 2017 and August 2018, the figures do not reflect the full picture. This is because most cases go unreported as families — and even survivors — fear they will never get justice. Even after arrests, convictions rates remain abysmally low because the real challenge is the legal loophole allowing perpetrators — often fathers, husbands, sons, brothers and uncles — to go free as victims’ families can pardon them. For women oppressed by patriarchal dictates, the law does not prevent killers from roaming free while society sanctions this behaviour by first policing women, then blaming them and silently accepting their cold-blooded murder. It is condemnable, then, that the state has yet to remove the ‘forgiveness’ loophole from the anti-honour killing law.

Regressive traditions supporting murder in the name of honour are reason enough for removing punishment waivers and compoundability provisions from the law. In cases where the state becomes the prosecutor in crimes against women, perpetrators have been penalised. Instead of presenting misogyny as tradition, the government is duty-bound to strengthen police investigations and court procedures so that justice is served and the killers of women jailed.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2018