Right to life demands structural changes

If we succeed in transforming the attitudes, approaches and mindset on the issue of honour crimes in the country, then many of the actions that at the moment are being used to fight the menace would prove to be mostly unnecessary

Right to life demands structural changes

As no one is entitled to end a human life, therefore, the government, considering people’s right to life, should protect them, taking appropriate steps when their lives are in danger. Laws concerning the honour killings are a small step in the right direction, however, to protect our mothers, sisters and daughters from this vicious practice, not just the laws butthe rigid mindsets, harsh attitudes, and prejudice patriarchal traditions that are responsible for intensifying the incidents ofthe spiteful murders of women in the name of honour need to be changed.

The fact is that the change in almost all these responsible factors can play a significant role in exterminating or curbingthe menace of honour killing that prevails to the epidemic proportions in our society. The harrowing statistics how that the laws have got a little success in deterring heinous crimes of cutting in short innocent lives. According to HRCP’s recent estimates, in the last three years alone, some 2,300 women have been killed in the name of honour in Pakistan. This is the reason why Pakistan was declared the second-worst country for gender equality in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2016. Despite the fact that women have been passing through the hell, ten Pakistani women had made contributions on international platforms in different fields last year. If we get success in diminishing gender disparity and ending violence against women to the conceivable proportions, then we can have much more such proud women who would make epoch-making contributions in a number ofareas both nationally and globally.

It is pertinent to mention here that most of the women have been murdered with the approval of almost all male members of families for allegedly bringing shame and disrespect on their families in various ways which include becoming courageous to marry men of their own choice and rejecting marriage arranged by their parents with the persons not matching to them in terms of education and age. The most ubiquitous form of marriages in rural areas of the country is consanguineous marriages — the close kinship marriages. The consanguineous marriages are often decided without considering differences in age and education of couples. If a man has arranged for his nephew to marry his daughter, the nephew’s age and education in comparison with his daughter’s is not deemed relevant, and the girl is supposed to accept the marriage come what may.

Last year in October,the parliament passed The Anti-Honour Killing Bill which guarantees mandatory prison sentences of 25 years to so-called honour killers,who are mostly close male relatives of the victims, and strips familiesof the victims of the right to legally pardon them, a practice that has allowed thousands of perpetrators of this inhuman crime to walk free. The important bill was passed after the astounding and disheartening incidents of slaughtering Maria Sadaqat in Murree, Ambreen in Abbottabad, Nazia Hameed in Kasur and social media personality Qandeel Baloch, had occurred.

It was hoped that the bill would serve as an effective deterrent to would-be honour assassins. But despondently, the case has been on the contrary to the expectations because the law seems to be achieving little success. Though women being an inevitable member of society, have all rights, duties and responsibilities similar to men, yet they are bound to experience savagery and barbarism of men. In November, three women and three men were killed allegedly over the pretext of honour in Jacobabad, Qambar and Khairpur districts of Sindh. In the recent incident, a man allegedly murdered his mother and stepfather to marry against the consent of her family nine years ago. Not just this but also the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reported in December 2016 that almost 41incidents of honour killings have taken place in the country in the period of only two months after the bill was passed.

As the traditional patriarchy is deep rooted in Pakistani society and a vast majority of women are economically and socially dependent on men. Therefore most of the women, who being illiterate and unaware of their rights, have been made a victim of discriminatory practices, lower status and inferior roles in the society. Moreover, patriarchal social values, religious fanaticism, cultural traditions, rigid mindsets and conservative attitudes towards women prevailing in the country have further reinforced their dependency and restrained their contribution as a valuable human resource in the inclusive progress of
the country.

It must be recollected that the legislation is not supportive to bring about the fundamental changes that would enable the communities to castigate themselves such atrocious crimes and thus their perpetrators. Significantly, to make these changes possible, it requires crucialinitiatives aimed at mobilisingthe very people to consider honour killings as the horrific assassinations. If we succeed in transforming the attitudes, approaches and mindset on the issue of honour crimes in the country, then many of the actions that at the moment are being used to fight the menace would prove to be mostly unnecessary.

To end them onstrouspractice of honour killings in order to save thousands of women’s lives to be sacrificed in future, the government in collaboration with NGOs, civil society, media and all other stakeholders must develop the mechanism of initiatives aimed at empowering, protecting and liberating women.


The writer is an academic and can be reached on Twitter @ARShykh