Whither honour?

Whither honour?

Another heart-wrenching, horrible story of honour killing comes from Sindh’s small town of Gambat in district Khairpur. Tahira Shah and Kamran Larik, who married by their own choice and left their parental homes in the second week of August, were convinced by Tahira’s father to come back for a formal wedding ceremony, for the sake of ‘societal prestige and honour’. Both were subsequently poisoned by Tahira’s father.

For the next three days, both struggled to survive initially at the Khairpur hospital and later at a Larkana hospital. The day after they reached Larkana, Kamran breathed his last. For Tahira, her love story ended soon after it had started. Her father had thought it was wrong for his Syed daughter to marry outside the clan.

Early this month, another high-profile case of honour killing was unearthed from Jhelum, when a Pakistani-origin UK citizen, Samiya was strangulated to death by her ex-husband in connivance with her father and immediate family. The British government asked Pakistani authorities to investigate the matter, as her second husband had alleged that she was killed by her family, after being emotionally goaded into coming back to her hometown due to her mother’s illness. Again, in her case, the immediate family were her killers.

Last month, Qandeel Baloch, a model and a social celebrity was cold-bloodedly killed in Multan by her brother. After much hype on social and mainstream media, her brother was arrested but came up with the excuse of ‘honour’ for his crime.

These are just three high-profile cases. We are killing almost three girls or women every day across the country in the name of honour. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP maintains an annual log of honour killings. In a report released a few months back that, the HRCP says that 987 cases of honour killings were reported in 2015 — of 1,096 women and 88 men including 170 minors. In 2014 and 2013, the numbers of women killed in the name of honour were 1,000 and 869 respectively.

This means that at an average we are killing annually around 1,000 women across the country as per reported cases. That also means that every day almost three girls or women are being killed in any part of the country. If we add to this cases that go unreported, the number may double.

In most cases of honour killing, the killers are either parents or close relatives of the victim. Some relate such murder to cruel tribal customs. Others take refuge under orthodox religious understanding. Collectively, we don’t have courage to say that any such killing is coldblooded murder and needs to be considered a crime.

Let the precedent be set by law. Let rule of law rule the country and not the law of the jungle.

Over recent years, we have been successful to introduce some pro-women legislation, positively. That came as a result of sensitisation on those issues by rights-based forums including an evolving resilient civil society. These organisations strove to sensitise law-makers on various issues, including violence against women, honour killings and other inequalities. However, still much needs to be done to safeguard our real honour, which is not in killing but in saving lives.

Let these cruel, tribal, cultural, religious and legal pretexts and contexts be buried. Otherwise, our future generations will ask us why we did not stop murdering in the name of honour.

The writer is an Islamabad-based anthropologist, currently working with the Shaheed Bhutto Foundation.

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