No Honor In Honor Killings
“A man remains a man no matter how poor his conduct. A woman, even if she were to deviate for one instance, from the role given to her by men, is branded a whore. She is viewed with lust and contempt. Society closes on her doors it leaves ajar for a man stained with same ink. If both are equal, why are our barbs reserved for the woman?” – Saadat Hasan Manto.
Alas, there have been more killings in the name of honor in Abbottabad and Faisalabad within an interval of just a few days. The subcontinent society has been shaped in a way where people have been strongly attached to each other within ties that are mainly strengthened by cast and creed. Poverty prevails in the society in general. A majority of the lower middle class and lower class has nothing distinct to brag about but a sign of pride which they extract through the chastity of their women. This pride of honor and values comes to their rescue where narrow-mindedness gives them a sense of distinction from the others. This pride has shaped itself in a certain way over the years resulting in the term ‘honor’. Some factions of the society do not have anything but reliance upon honor. It is more unfortunate when we all are aware of this fact and its prevalence yet we mind talking about it openly.
How far and for how long would we continue to escape from this reality and run from the prevalence of bitter facts of our society? Before expressing these views further, let me pose a few questions to ourselves. Do we really think that concealing the facts can change the reality? How long will we consider discussing these issues a taboo? Is burning your daughters alive justified? Is cutting and mutilating parts of the body of your own child a sane act? Is shooting them publicly right? Are we progressing or are are we regressing into old Arab times when daughters used to be burnt alive? Why is killing a woman not considered to be serious?
I would like to make it clear that I am not going to use the word ‘honor’ for the so called ‘honor’ killings, in this piece of writing. It is just a killing, a pre-meditated murder under the pretext of honor. It is the pre-planned murder of a woman by her own family members. I would like to state few facts here. The statistics shared by the Human Rights Commission Pakistan clearly illustrate that the number of killings in the name of honor has been persistently rising for the past 2 years. It is the need of the hour to understand this heinous crime and eliminate the sacred word ‘honor’ for such a dishonorable act. This issue is prevalent in both urban and rural areas, but mostly in rural and suburban areas. It is present in every region but with different names like karo kari in Sindh, kala kali in Punjab, siyah kari in Balochistan and tor tora in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
This kind of killing is basically a crime forced by the society. Societal pressure gets agitated to such a point where families themselves feel that killing their own child is the only solution to resurrect their broken social stature and honor. The masculine ego, male dominance, forced morality, patriarchal social structure and personal ego are some of the major factors contributing towards such murders.
A clear stance of the ulema council in this regard needs to be established. They clearly need to elaborate that the right of marital choice is not something which is distant from the jurisdictions of Islam. People mostly bring religion into this matter to get away with this crime. Unfortunately, we have a very limited understanding of Islam. We need to enlighten ourselves and for that the ulemas and religious scholars need to play their due role. Secondly, minimizing the influential role of jirgas, panchayats and many other parallel judicial structures would also prove to be helpful. There is a need to curb their illegitimate powers, because the power of decision making in this regard should only rest with state defined institutions. The power to give out punishment should only be reserved with the state. Thirdly, education is the prime factor which can improve the behaviour of society in general and this stands true in the case of honor killings as well. Educating the masses about this issue and specifically focusing on the problem to acquaint the populace with this crime is the only solution. Education will certainly bring awareness to women about their rights as well. The law of qisas and diyat can also be a major hindrance whereby perpetrators know that they may not be punished for this murder or may not remain behind bars for long. There is a dire need to revisit the provisions of qisas and diyat law which provides a safe exit to the perpetrators. The state cannot define honor. It can never impose norms and ethics. All a state can do in this regard is to make laws and implement them. The role of media should be more positive – their duty is not just to bring information about these crimes to the public, rather in such circumstances they have the power to act as a watchdog and can keep a follow up with the law enforcement agencies and departments that are meant to provide justice. They can put pressure on these institutions and the relevant people to do the right thing.
We are already fighting against many serious issues and threats in our country and through all these killings we are just exposing our worst side to the world out there. Gender equality and women empowerment are not just topics for gaining the attention of the world and for claiming grants in this regard. We need to acknowledge all the evils present in our society against women and make collective efforts for the betterment of society.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which she might be associated.