IT is not just in the rural hinterland, remote areas stuck in a time warp, that daughters are killed for marrying men of their own choice. Such barbaric sentiment is alive even in towns like Narowal in Punjab, from where a father went to suburban Lahore and shot dead his 20-year-old daughter, as well as her husband and brother-in-law, because she had married against his will. It is difficult to comprehend what compels a parent to take his own child’s life simply because she has married a man of her choosing. A woman has the right to marry a partner of her own choice, a right that was upheld by a Supreme Court ruling in 1997. But such reasoning falls on deaf ears of tradition-bound families that will go to any lengths in getting their daughters back. Some girls marrying against their parents’ will run away but remain in constant fear of being discovered by their vengeful families. Then there are some who seek refuge in shelters as their fates are decided by courts hearing charges of kidnapping filed against husbands by the girls’ families. Many are spared death because their story makes the news. However, like the couple originally from Narowal, many are not always lucky.
What is the way out of this terrible situation? The most important aspect lies in implementing the law – in this case, arresting those involved in the killing and bringing them to justice. As for those couples that marry of their own choice and are then threatened by their families: they must be given protection of the law and their families held responsible if anything horrible happens to them. Of equal importance are awareness campaigns in the media, educating the people on a person’s right to choose a life partner. Only enlightened debate on the subject can steer society out of the hold of medieval customs and notions.