Violation of Human Rights (Honor Killing of Women in Sindh and Southern Punjab): A Critical Analysis

 Research Questions

Specifically, the study attempts to answer the following questions;

  1. Why is honor killing of women on the rise in southern Punjab and Sindh?
  2. What are the contributing factors?
  3. What policy measures can be taken to arrest this trend?

 Significance and scope

The significance of this Paper is to critically analyze the socio-economic and cultural context of honor killings in Sindh and southern Punjab to enhance understanding of the issue and recommend policy measures to eliminate the practice. Although honor killing occurs across the country, the scope of this Paper will be limited to Sindh and southern Punjab. Owing to limitations of time, the study will be limited to a review of the legislation enacted during the last decade to address this issue.

Review of Literature

There is abundant literature on honor killing, mostly produced by Non-governmental Organizations (NGO) and International Non-governmental Organizations (INGO). However, the issue lacks research based studies as is evidenced in the discrepancy in the basic data on the number of reported cases of honor killings. Shah (2002: 2) elucidated diverse forms of honor killings across Pakistan. In Sindh, the practice is locally called as ‘Karo-Kari’, in Baluchistan as Siyah Kari, while in Southern Punjab as ‘Kala Kali’ and in KP as ‘Tor Tora’. All these names carry the same meaning which is black man and woman, explaining the cultural reference of ‘blackening the face’ of their families and local community by indulging in illicit relations.

Faqir (2001: 15) argued, “When a feud over sexual misbehavior towards a woman is settled, it is not the chastity or honor of the women that is restored; that can only be removed by killing her, the bearer of shame, which is also often done in some societies”. Faqir’s body of work focuses on the patriarchal mindsets where killing the woman is the only way to restitute the family’s honour.

Jafri (2008) says understanding the concept of ‘honour’ is essential to comprehend the action of men to address any real or perceived breach in their honour in such a violent manner. “The conception of honour used to rationalize killings is founded on the notion that a person’s honour depends on the behaviour of others and that behaviour, therefore, becomes a key component of one’s own self-esteem and community regard. It is important to note that this view is different from saying it should be the individual’s own behaviour which should be linked with his or her honour.”

Jafri writes: “Honour concepts are only another way of understanding the operation of patriarchy which is anchored in the assumption of male authority over women and male definition and expectation of ‘appropriate’ female behaviour”. (p.21). “….Patriarchal oppression, like other forms of oppression, may manifest itself in legal and economic discrimination, but like all oppressive structures, it is rooted in violence”.

Lari (2011) highlights the gaps in the implementation of existing legislation to curb honor killings. She writes that despite the passage of ‘Honour Killings Act’, passed in 2004, the incident of ‘honour’ crimes is still on the rise which is supported by data in this Paper.

Ali (2001: 26) has explained the support of tribal leaders in the phenomenon of honor killing. Hussain (2006: 233-234) has observed that the parallel justice system of tribal councils, comprising of local influentials, is the sole authority for people in a rural society. Government has ‘limited authority’ in these tribal communities and legal courts are ignored by the tribal councils.

Moving beyond cultural explanations of honor-based crimes, Khan (2006) applies Marx’s Historical Materialist approach to explore the origin and sustenance of honor crimes. Her study examines materialist and economic reasons surrounding the issue of honor killings.

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