By Saqib Hussain
President General Pervez Musharraf recently called for a law to ban honour killings and said the Hudood Ordinance and the blasphemy law should be scrutinised to ensure that they are not misused.
Reiterating his commitment to the protection of human rights at a convention on the Sensitization and Adoption of Human Rights Standards in Pakistan, the president announced the formation of an independent National Commission for Human Rights to facilitate the implementation of human rights standards in the country.
Although honour killings are a crime under the law but the punishment is very mild as the defense lawyer takes refuge by the lacunae of law provided through the clause of “sudden provocation”. The corrupt state machinery responsible to prevent and to investigate crime and to punish perpetrators adds to the miseries of women.
The government however has taken measures to end honour killings and to bring the criminals before the law.
Women police stations have been established, where investigation, reporting and controlling officials are females. These measures cannot curb this centuries old evil doing, unless the awareness is created to accept the challenge of changing the attitude of people especially the feudal lords and male section of society.
Furthermore, the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women which urges state not to “invoke custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligation” to eliminate discriminatory treatment of women.
Also, article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, ratified in 1996, which obliges states to “modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women” to eliminate prejudice and discriminatory traditions is the source of women protection. Above all the Islamic teachings of Quran and Sunnah brought the glorious principles of equal rights of all when women were subjected to most inhuman treatment.
However, in a Muslim country like Pakistan, cultural diversity should be recognised and society should stand resolutely in defense of women rights, particularly the most fundamental rights to life and freedom from torture and ill treatment. The role of society is also to ensure the full protection of these rights, where necessary mediating ‘tradition’ through education, law and the Islamic teachings.
The international understanding of state responsibility for human rights violation has significantly widened in recent years to include violation of human rights by state agents but also abuses by private actors which the state ignores. The state should act with due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish abuses including violence against women in the name of honour. This view of state responsibility is established in all the core human rights treaties.
The Amnesty International has called on the Government of Pakistan to take legal, preventive and protective measures in fulfillment of its obligations to provide effective protection to women against violence perpetrated in the name of honour. It asks the Government to undertake a review of criminal laws to ensure equal protection of law to women. Amnesty International also recommends the government to undertake wide ranging public awareness programmes through the media, the education system and public announcements to inform both men and women of women’s equal rights.
Finally the government should expand victim support services provided by the state; they should be run as places of voluntary recourse for women and their purpose should only be protective; they should be available all over the country, adequately resourced, and linked to legal aid, vocational training and with adequate provisions for children.
Hence, above all a social change is required in the society, wherein Government initiatives can work as a catalyst. The abominable act of honour killing is prevalent mostly in the lower strata of our society that requires a check from the government, civil society organisations and from the influential elements of the society. This social evil has to be eradicated.
This can only be achieved if we are successful in enhancing the literacy rate and reducing the number of people living below the poverty line. Social and economic change will bring a change in attitude as well but this responsibility lies on the shoulders of each and every individual of our society.
Source: The Nation