Data supports that honor killings have been on the rise in Sindh and southern Punjab despite existence of extensive legislation. It is a culturally and legally accepted phenomenon in Pakistan. Contributive factors include cultural perceptions, illiteracy, poverty, feudally controlled socio-economic structures, institutional weaknesses and legal lacunae.
However, any attempt to mitigate honor crimes on the basis of cultural traditions should be thwarted to effectively deal with the perpetrators of the crime as prescribed in the existing legal framework. Pakistan is internationally bound to ensure protection and promotion of women’s rights and these commitments have also been translated in the national legislation. While enactment of legislation is a testimony to the severity of the problem, however the real problem lies in the ineffective implementation of these laws.
Pakistan is obliged as a signatory of CEDAW to “modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women” (CEDAW, Article 5) to eliminate prejudice and discriminatory traditions.
Due to women’s enforced seclusion, omission from decision-making process, and low levels of literacy most Pakistani women are not aware of their rights as guaranteed in the national and international women’s rights regime. Cultural attitudes towards honor crimes prevailing among law enforcement officials discourage reporting of honor crimes or show laxity in enforcement of punishment to the perpetrator of the criminal.
Impunity is the most significant factor encouraging honor killings. Amendment to the Criminal Law (Amendment) 2004 is essential to plug any gap of waiver available to perpetrator of the crime under the Qisas and Diyat law. Unless this is done, all efforts to curb honor killings will remain perfunctory.
Amendment to the Criminal Law (Amendment) 2004 is essential so the State registers, investigates, and prosecutes the perpetrator of honor killing without any recourse for a waiver under the Qisas and Diyat law.
- Efforts must be made to ensure that the police officials and district administrators take notice of every report of honor killing for proper investigation and prosecution;
- Wide-spread public awareness campaigns must be mounted through media, educational institutions, civil society to modify deep-rooted cultural perceptions regarding superiority of men over women and inform all of equal rights of men and women;
- Police and judicial personnel may also be given gender-sensitization training to be able to impartially address complaints of honor-related violence;
- Outlawing of parallel legal systems existing across Pakistan, which is a major element sanctioning honor crimes and hampering access to justice of the victim’s families;
- The importance of proper reporting of incidents of honor killings and collection of data cannot be overemphasized to understand the magnitude of the issue in order to effectively deal with it.
Articles, Reports & Papers
Ali, Rabia, The Dark Side of Honour: Women Victims in Pakistan, Shirkat Gah, Lahore, 2001.
Amnesty International, Pakistan: Honor Killings of Girls and Women, 1999.
Asian Human Rights Commission & Human Rights Education Forum (Pakistan), Recent cases of ‘honour killing’ in Sindh Province, Pakistan, Vol. 03 – No. 03, June, 2004.
Aurat Foundation, Annual Report January-December, 2011: Violence Against Women in Pakistan: A qualitative review of statistics 2011, published by Aurat Foundation, 2011.
Bokhari, Shahnaz, Good Practices in Legislation to Address Harmful Practices Against Women in Pakistan, Paper presented at the Expert Group Meeting on good practices in legislation to address harmful practices against women
United Nations Conference Centre, Addis Ababa, 25-28 May 2009.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Annual Report, 2011.
Human Rights Watch. Integration of the human rights of women and the gender perspective: Violence Against Women and “Honor” Crimes,” 5 April 2001.
Hussain, Mazna., Take my Riches, Give me Justice: A Contextual Analysis of Pakistan’s Honor Crimes Legislation, Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, 29, 2006.
Iqbal, Nasira, Legal Pluralism in Pakistan and Its Implications on Women’s Rights, Scratching the Surface: Democracy, Traditions, Gender, Edited by Jennifer Bennet, Heinrich Boll Foundation, 2007.
Mayell, Hillary, Thousands of women killed for family ‘honor’, National Geographic News
February 12, 2002.
Nasrullah, Muazzam, Haqqi, Sobia, Cummings, Kristin J., The epidemiological patterns of honour killing of women in Pakistan, European Journal of Public Health, Vol. 19, No. 2, 193–197, 2009.
National Commission on Status of Women, Impact Assessment Report: Public Private Partnership to End “Honor Crimes” in Pakistan Through the Implementation of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2004, 2010.
Shah, Nafisa., Making of Crime, Custom and Culture: The Case of Karo Kari Killings of Upper Sindh, Scratching the Surface: Democracy, Traditions, Gender, Edited by Jennifer Bennet, Heinrich Boll Foundation, 2007.
Jafri, Amir H., Honor Killing: Dilemma, Ritual, Understanding, Oxford University Press, 2008.
Khan, Tahira S., Beyond honour: a historical materialist explanation of honour related violence, Oxford University Press, 2001.
Lari, Maliha Zia, A Pilot Study on: ‘Honor Killings in Pakistan and Compliance of Law, Aurat Foundation, Islamabad, 2011.
‘Shame’, directed by Sharjil Baloch, produced by Dastak Society for Communications, 2005.
Legislation/ Documents/ Declarations
Convention Against Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2004.
Qisas and Diyat Laws.
National Policy for Development and Empowerment of Women (NPDEW) of Pakistan, 2002.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.