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Honour killings: Women suffer in silence

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While long-awaited legislation to tackle so-called honour killings is due to be passed in Pakistan’s parliament in the next few weeks, human rights groups believe it’s the social attitudes of men towards women that needs to be addressed.

Pakistan’s government is facing pressure to act strongly against this social scourge, following the outcry over a social media celebrity, the latest victim to an honour killing. Qandeel Baloch was strangled by her brother at home on July 15. Baloch had been drugged and strangled by her brother because he perceived her actions to be dishonourable and un-Islamic. He was arrested for the crime and her family has condemned the attack with her father saying the sun should be shot on sight.

Honour killings have been a debate for years now with woman rights groups from around the globe echoing the message of condemning these acts of crime against woman.  Pakistan’s human rights commission has said that in the last year nearly 1,100 women were killed by relatives who believed they had dishonoured their families. The Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif has said that there is no place in Islam for killing in the name of family honour.

According to a report revealed 88 men were also the victims of honour killings last year. In February this year the country’s largest province Punjab took action against these sorts of crimes by passing a landmark law criminalising all forms of violence against women.

Unfortunately, some 30 religious groups have threatened to launch protests if the law is not retracted. Their argument is that this new Punjab law will see an increase the divorce rate and destroy the country’s traditional family system.

Arslan Javed from the Woman Rights Association Pakistan says the killings stem from a patriarchal societal system. His organisation fights against gender-based violence, promotes hygiene practices and advocacy to support women in the southern Punjab region of Pakistan.

“When we look at the reason for people doing these honour killings it can be answered in multiple dimensions, one of these being religion. Most people believe women should be under [the rule of] men and women need to follow what men say.”

He says although Islam permits women from certain activities, some still wish to show their authority.

“No one has the right to stop a woman from doing what they want because that is between the woman and their Creator,” Javed exclaimed.

The killing of the social media star made headlines as she was a bold and provocative personality. Despite ruffling feathers of conservative, orthodox Pakistani Muslims, it also inspired others.

According to Javed a lot of the woman who even survive these honour attacks usually move away to other towns and do not tell anyone about their experiences and as a result perpetrators get away with their crimes.

“Unfortunately we have seen that there are a lot of woman who might at some point have been threatened or even were attacked by family members they do not report it. They just keep on living like nothing has happened. In most cases the victims do not survive as they are killed. But for those who do survive they run away and never speak of what happened,” he said.

In South Africa, women have the freedom to educate themselves, to choose a life partner and pursue opportunities. However in some parts of the world misogyny and patriarchal dominances prevents woman from living according to their terms.

“In Pakistan we do have woman who are living liberal lifestyles but there are some parts where culture restricts woman from stepping out and doing whatever they want. Due to misogyny, women are limited to what they do in our country but we do have a lot of them who have been given the freedom and have thrived in success,” he concluded. VOC

VOC (Najma-bibi Noor Mahomed)


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