Domestic violence and honour killings
PAKISTAN has a high incidence of honour killing in the world. This is a major human rights issue that has received little attention outside of human rights groups and women activist networks.
Since the late 1970s, aspects of traditional justice have been incorporated in the Pakistan Penal Code, thereby sanctioning homicide of men and women charged with adultery and fornication.
In order to deter honour killings, more stringent punishment of offenders is advised to invalidate traditional justice and counteract the private use of violence.
Karo-kari is a type of premeditated honour killing, which originated in rural and tribal areas of Sindh. The homicidal acts are primarily committed against women who are thought to have brought dishonour to their family by engaging in illicit pre-marital or extra-marital relations.
In order to restore this honour, a male family member must kill the female in question. Although legally proscribed, socio-cultural factors and gender role expectations have given legitimacy to karo-kari within some tribal communities. In addition to its persistence in areas of Pakistan, there is evidence that karo-kari may be increasing in incidence in other parts of the world in association with migration.
Moreover, perpetrators of ‘honour killings’ often have motives outside of female adultery. Analysis of the socio-cultural and psycho-pathological factors associated with the practice of karo-kari can guide the development of prevention strategies.
In resolution 55/68, the UN General Assembly expressed deep concern at the persistence of various forms of violence and crimes against women in all parts of the world, including crimes committed in the name of honour and crimes committed in the name of passion, stressing that all forms of violence against women, including crimes identified in the outcome document, were obstacles to the advancement and empowerment of women; and reaffirmed that violence against women both violated and impaired or nullified the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Violence against women constitutes a violation of basic human rights and is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development, and peace.
The women’s movement in Pakistan in the last 60 years has been largely class-bound. Its frontline marchers voiced their concerns about issues mainly related to the urban-middle class woman. It is only in the last few years that rural women’s issues like karo-kari (honour killing) and rape have been brought to light.
Feudal/tribal laws of disinheritance, forced marriages and violence against women (acid-throwing, stove-burning homicide and nose-cutting) in the name of honour are being condemned by NGOs and human rights activists in the cities. Still a vast majority of women in rural areas and urban slums are unaware of the development debates.
The urban Pakistani women in many aspects are almost at par with the women of developed countries. In the rural scenario, the picture is entirely different. It is archaic, brutal and clearly oppressive. These trends often seep into urban lives of women through migratory movements of rural population, which has yet to adjust to urban ways.
At the societal level, restricted mobility for women affects their education and work/job opportunities. This adds to the already fewer educational facilities for women. Sexual harassment at home, at work and in society has reached its peak.
Lack of awareness or denial of its existence leads to further confine women to the sanctity of their homes.
Violence against women further adds to restriction of mobility and pursuance of education and job, thereby lowering prospects of women’s empowerment in society.
RAJA MASROOR HASSAN QAZI