No honour in sight

Published May 22, 2021

RECENTLY, a woman and man were shot dead in Mansehra by another man who fled the scene after reportedly confessing to the crime to the woman’s husband. Though few other details about the case are known at this point, the murder was classified as an ‘honour’ killing, in a long list of similar acts of violence.

Despite the inclusion of harsher punishments in the anti-honour killing law of 2016, such murders are pervasive in Pakistan. One only needs to scan local newspapers, filled with horrific acts of violence each day, to get a sense of the scale of the sickness. Such killings are rooted in an entitled and deeply patriarchal culture, which attempts to control women’s bodies and agency at every turn, with little accountability or access to justice for victims, as conviction rates continue to remain low.

Read: The ‘honour’ in murder

As long as conviction rates remain low, it is unlikely any law that is passed will act as a deterrent. According to human rights organisations, around 1,000 women are killed each year under the pretext of ‘honour’, although this figure is indefinite, as many cases are never reported. This includes a 16-year-old girl who was stabbed to death by her father in August 2020; a 24-year-old woman from Jamshoro, who was pelted with stones and beaten to death by her husband and brother-in-law in June 2020; and two teenage sisters in North Waziristan, who were shot dead by their relatives in May 2020.

The home is meant to be a sanctuary, but for many women, it can start feeling like a prison. Exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns enforced in different parts of the country, domestic violence cases increased by 200pc, according to data collected by domestic violence helplines last year. Hearing a jail petition in September 2020, Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked that the word ‘honour’ should be dropped when referring to such acts of violence, to remove justification. Unfortunately, a woman’s life is cheap in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2021

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