As many as 769 people, including 510 females, fell victim to killings in the name of so-called honour in Sindh between 2014 and 2019, according to a recent police study.
Police presented charge sheets in 649 cases and the courts awarded sentences to accused in 19 of those cases. Accused in 136 cases have been acquitted and 494 cases are still pending trial.
The conviction rate stood at a mere two per cent against the acquittal rate of 20.9pc.
The study was conducted about cases pertaining to karo-kari, or honour killings, in Sindh.
Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam told Dawn that as compared to lower Sindh where suicide cases were growing, upper Sindh was suffering from the phenomenon of so-called honour killing mainly because of existence of tribal culture there.
Of the total 649 criminal cases, courts hand sentences in only 19 cases between 2014 and 2019
He said that the police had decided to register cases on behalf of the state to prevent out-of-court settlements of such murders.
The police chief said that sometimes such killings also triggered a law and order problem because of the tribal factor.
He said that the study was carried out by the research wing of the Sindh police to identify the factors and suggest measures to control the killings in the name of so-called honour.
According to the police study, “Once a woman is declared as a kari, family members consider themselves to be authorised to kill her and the co-accused karo in order to restore family honour.”
A host of causes or motives have been cited in the study for the unabated killings such as elopement, refusal of an arranged marriage, being the victim of sexual assault or rape, seeking divorce from an abusive husband, committing adultery, alleged illicit relationship and flirting.
Other contributory factors are economic issues, preserving family land, allegation against some rich person, taking custody of the property of the enemy, settlement of a family dispute, old enmity, murder of enemy by alleging/declaring him as karo and practice of paying bride price, etc.
Loopholes in laws
Certain amendments were introduced in relevant laws in 2004 through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act such as increasing the punishments, allowing courts to award punishment on account of principle of causing fasad fil ard (chaos or disorder in society) when the right of qisas has been waived or compounded and giving a minimum imprisonment for 10 years in case of honour crimes.
Other amendments in the laws related to removing the possibility of the murderer as being the Wali and allowing the state to take the responsibility of Wali if necessary.
The police study suggested that still there were certain loopholes in the said law like validity of the provisions of waiver in cases of honour crimes and leaving the punishment in honour crimes at the discretion of the court as punishment was not made mandatory.
Moreover, others who were usually involved in or validate such killings like jirgas, panchayats, etc, were not made equally liable to penalty under the law.
Faulty investigations, non-reporting of crime
The study cited several factors behind the failures to eliminate the heinous crime such as existence of centuries-old practices, deeply rooted socio-cultural factors, non-reporting of such cases or presenting the same as suicide or accidental death and silent social acceptance of such killings.
Other contributory factors were loopholes in the laws, faulty investigation, very low rate of conviction, ineffective deterrence of the law and criminal justice system, collusion between offenders and witnesses and unwillingness to implement the law due to the overwhelming social acceptance of the crime and the influence of power holders.
Moreover, majority of the cases were being settled out of court.
The police believed that the role of community also did not help to end such killings.
The community members were also seen allegedly pressurising and taunting men to control their family.
The police regretted that the murderers were being treated with “respect, seen as the custodians and protectors of honour” as there was a general disrespect for legal institutions.
Speedy justice, training of police suggested
The police believed that desirable results may not be achieved to eliminate this centuries-old practice having deeply rooted socio-cultural basis till formulating and implementing a comprehensive strategy comprising sustained educational and awareness campaigns, filling the loopholes of existing laws and then implementation of law in letter and spirit by all stakeholders of government and civil society.
The study also suggests that the punishments should not be mitigated under the defence of “grave and sudden provocation”.
The study also calls for elimination of a parallel judicial system, provision of speedy justice in honour-killing cases, training of police on the latest methods of investigation and developing a community outreach programme to provide shelter and protection to women who survive possible murders after being declared kari.
It has also been recommended to prepare a standardised format for registering FIRs, which should include questions specifically relating to honour killings and registration of all cases of killings on behalf of the state in order to make such offence non-compoundable.
The media is also urged not to just report the honour-killing cases, but also provide details about the law and its implications.
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020