We witness yet another act of ‘honour’ killing. Fifteen-year-old Anusha, had acid poured over her by her own parents as she slept at her home in the village of Khoi Ratta near Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir.
She died in agony two days later. Anusha’s brutal murder was ‘punishment’ for ‘looking at boys’. Her mother, Zaheen Bibi had originally claimed that Anusha was ‘destined to die’. Since then Zaheen has expressed remorse over the act, wondering who will care for her six remaining children, all under the age of ten. But expressions of regret do nothing to reduce the hideous nature of this crime committed by parents against their own child.
Unfortunately, Anusha is not alone in her tragedy. Of the 943 cases of ‘honour’ killings reported last year, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says some 600 were killed – usually by their own family members – on grounds of ‘illicit relations’. Other similar deaths in the country either go unreported or passed off by families as suicides.
While there has been an increase in awareness about violence against women, the number of ‘honour’ killings has continued to rise. Laws against such murders have had little impact and it is obvious that, as in the case of Anusha, they are linked to prevailing mindsets regarding women. The fact that so many murderers get away with ‘honour’ crimes only adds to the problem. The way we treat women in our society needs to be challenged, with wider reforms introduced to elevate the status of women in the country. We can start by ensuring women’s right to education, and the right to be treated as equal citizens under law.
Somehow we need to pull ourselves out of this age of ignorance, particularly when it comes to women’s rights, that we have remained trapped in too long. Anusha’s murder should act as a reminder of all that we need to do to make this a country where women are not dispensed with as barbarically as we saw in this case. There must be no more victims of crimes as horrific as the one that ended Anusha’s brief life.