By Shakeel Ahmed
The murder of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the committers that the victim has got dishonor upon the family or community is called honor killing or honour killing, it is also called a customary killing. Honour killings are focused generally against the women and girls. The apparent dishonor is normally the result of one of the following conducts, or the distrust of such behaviors: dressing in a style intolerable to the family or community, wanting to dismiss or prevent an decided marriage or desiring to marry by own choice, engaging in heterosexual sexual acts outside marriage, or Engaging in homosexual acts. Women and girls are murdered at a much higher ratio than men.
Recently, there has been a wave of honor killings in rest of the country and this has led the government to decide what types of laws should be put in place to stop this terrible act of physical crime. So what is the description of honor killing and what leads families to commit this kind of shocking crime so that they can safeguard their family honor? What are the mistaken belief regarding honor killing and what would be the solutions to stop this crime from further spreading? Is this practice dominant only in Pakistan or is it dominant in other parts of the world as well? These are the questions that society needs to find the answer.
In my opinion, the Honour killing is defined as a death that is given to a woman of the family forget married against the Community wishes, engaging in heterosexual sexual acts outside marriage, marrying within the same clan or outside caste. Honour killing is different from the dowry deaths that are also a common practice in Pakistan rural and urban areas, in the case of dowry deaths, the committers of that action claim that they have not been given enough measurable rewards for accommodating the woman into the family. In that case there is a lot of anger and even physical and mental punishment given from the in-laws and more times than one, it has been seen that the wife compelled to suicide rather than being murdered by the in-laws, though it has to be said that she has been psychologically killed, if not bodily. We have had a tradition of honor killing. This habit was first watched in its most horrible form during the Partition of British India in two parts in between the years 1947 and 1950 when many women were compellingly killed so that family honor could be well-preserved. Now, there are several reasons why people or family members decide to kill the daughter in the name of conserving their family honor.The clearest reason for this practice to continue in Pakistan, although at a much quicker and practically daily basis and also because people from the remote areas reject to change their attitude to marriage. According to them, if any spawn dares to violate her parents on the issue of marital and decides to marry a man of her wishes but from another Gotra or outside her class, it would bring disgrace to the family honor and hence they decide to give the decisive punishment. Now as has become the norm, the son-in-law is killed as well. Sociologists believe that the reason why honor killings continue to take place is because of the continued inflexibility of the caste system. Hence the fear of losing their caste position through which they gain many profits makes them commit this terrible crime. The other reason why honor killings are taking place is because the mindset of people has not changed and they just cannot accept that marriages can take place in the same clan. The root of the cause for the rising in the number of honor killings is because the official authority has not been able to get access the remote areas of our country and as a result. Thus, this act of violence continues though it should have been removed by now.
There are numerous misunderstandings concerning the practice of honor killing. The first misunderstanding about honor killing is that this is a practice that is partial to the remote areas. The reality is that it is spread over such a large geographical area that we cannot separate honor killings to rural areas only, though one has to acknowledge that majority of the killings take place in the village’s areas. But it has also been seen freshly that even the metropolitan cities like popular Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brother in an act of honor killing in Multan in the province of Punjab and other major Cities of Pakistan are also not safe from this crime because lots of horror events of honor killing have been reported from major cities including this horror one.
So it can be seen clearly that honor killing is not isolated to rural areas but also to urban areas and as already pointed out, it has a very wide geographical spread. The second misconception regarding honor killing is that it has religious roots. Even if a woman commits adultery, there have to be four male witnesses along with good behavior and reputation to validate the charge. Furthermore, only the State can carry out judicial punishments, but never an individual vigilante. So, we can clearly see that there is no religious backing or religious roots for this heinous crime.
What can we do to prevent such a thing from happening? Firstly, the mentality of the people has to change. And when we say that the mentality has to change, we mean to say that parents should accept their children’s wishes regarding marriage as it is they who have to lead a life with their life partners and if they are not satisfied with their life partner then they will lead a horrible married life which might even end in suicide. Secondly, we need to have stricter laws to tackle these kinds of killings as this is a crime which cannot be pardoned because humans do not have the right to write down death sentences of innocent fellow humans.
Shakeel Ahmed is Research Intern at Institute for Strategic Studies Research and Analysis in Branch of Global and Regional Assessment Unit. Author recently completed his Master’s Degree from National Defense University Islamabad in Strategic and Nuclear Studies. He obtained his BA from Karakorum International University.