Honour killings in Pakistan are known locally as karo-kari (Urdu: کاروکاری). An honour killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief the victim has brought dishonour upon the family or community. The death of the victim is viewed as a way to restore the reputation and honour of the family.
Originally, karo and kari were metaphoric terms for adulterer and adulteress, but it has come to be used with regards to multiple forms of perceived immoral behavior. Once a woman is labeled as a kari, family members consider themselves to be authorized to kill her and the co-accused karo in order to restore family honour. In the majority of cases, the victim of the attacks is female with her attackers being male members of her family or community.
Karo-kari is an act of murder, in which a person is killed for his or her actual or perceived immoral behavior. Such "immoral behavior" may take the form of alleged marital infidelity, refusal to submit to an arranged marriage, demanding a divorce, perceived flirtatious behaviour and being raped.:44 Suspicion and accusations alone are many times enough to defile a family's honour and therefore enough to warrant the killing of the woman.
In patriarchal cultures, women's lives are structured through a strict maintenance of an honour code. In order to preserve woman's chastity, women must abide by socially restrictive cultural practices pertaining to women's status and family izzat, or honour, such as the practice of purdah, the segregation of sexes.:41 Honour killings are frequently more complex than the stated excuses of the perpetrators. More often than not, the murder relates to inheritance problems, feud-settling, or to get rid of the wife, for instance in order to remarry. Human rights agencies in Pakistan have repeatedly emphasized that victims were often women wanting to marry of their own will. In such cases, the victims held properties that the male members of their families did not wish to lose if the woman chose to marry outside the family.
A 1999 Amnesty International report drew specific attention to "the failure of the authorities to prevent these killings by investigating and punishing the perpetrators." According to women's rights advocates, the concepts of women as property and honour are so deeply entrenched in the social, political and economic fabric of Pakistan that the government, for the most part, ignores the daily occurrences of women being killed and maimed by their families. The fact that much of Pakistan's Tribal Areas are semi-autonomous and governed by often fundamentalist leaders makes federal enforcement difficult when attempted.
As in other countries, the exact number of honour killings is not known. Latest official data puts the number of women killed in honour killings in 2015 at nearly 1,100, suggesting these types of killings are on the rise (or perhaps are being better reported). Sources disagree as to the exact number by year. In 2011, human rights groups reported 720 honour killings in Pakistan (605 women and 115 men), while Pakistan's Human Rights Commission reported that in 2010 there were 791 honour killings in the country, and Amnesty International cited 960 incidents of women alone who were slain in honour killings that year.
Over 4,000 cases were reported in Pakistan between 1998 and 2004. Of the victims, almost 2,700 were women and just over 1,300 were men; and 3,451 cases came before the courts. The highest rates were in Punjab, followed by the Sindh province. Lesser number of cases have also been reported in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and in Balochistan.Nilofar Bakhtiar, advisor to Prime MinisterShaukat Aziz, stated that in 2003, as many as 1,261 women were murdered in honour killings.
Complications in data
Data and its absence are difficult to interpret. One reason is the reluctance to report honour killings to official bodies. Another reason is that honour killings are occurring in cultural and social contexts which do not recognize the criminality of honour killings. The very nature of honour killings reflects deeply entrenched notions of "honour" and "morality", in which the perpetrator is upholding justice and order when the victim commits deplorable social acts. Honour killings thus inverts the roles of "right" and "wrong". The perpetrator becomes the champion of justice while the victim becomes the perpetrator and accused of the criminal act. Furthermore, human rights advocates are in wide agreement that the reported cases do not reflect the full extent of the issue, as honour killings have a high level of support in Pakistan's rural society, and thus often go unreported. Frequently, women killed in honour killings are recorded as having committed suicide or died in accidents.
In one of the most publicized honour killing cases committed in Pakistan, Samia Sarwar was murdered by her family in the Lahore office of well-known human rights activists Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani in April 1999. As Sarwar sought assistance for a divorce from her first cousin, her family arranged her murder after the shame felt in her attempt to marry a man of her choice. The police did not make any arrests or pursue prosecution as Sarwar's family is highly well known in elite, political circles. The 2000 award-winning BBC documentary, "License to Kill," covers Samia's killing in Pakistan.
Amnesty International reported that on 27 April 2009, Ayman Udas, a Pashtun singer from the Peshawar area, was shot to death apparently by her two brothers who "viewed her divorce, remarriage and artistic career as damaging to family honour." No one was prosecuted.
A widely reported case was that of Tasleem Khatoon Solangi, 17, of Hajna Shah village in Khairpur district, which was widely reported after her father, 57-year-old Gul Sher Solangi, publicized the case. He alleged his eight months' pregnant daughter was tortured and killed on March 7, 2008, by members of her village claiming that she had brought dishonour to the tribe. Solangi's father claimed that it was orchestrated by her father-in-law, who accused her of carrying a child conceived out of wedlock, potentially with the added motive of trying to take over the family farm.
In August 2008, five women were killed by tribesmen of the Umrani Tribe of Balochistan. The five victims – three teens, and two middle-aged women – were kidnapped, beaten, shot, and then buried alive because they refused the tribal leader's marriage arrangements and wanted to marry men of their own choosing. Local politicians may have been involved in the murders. Syed Iqbal Haider commented that the Pakistani government had been very slow to react.SenatorIsrar Ullah Zehri defending the killings, stating, "these are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them.'
On 27 May 2014 a pregnant woman named Farzana Iqbal (née Parveen) was stoned to death by her family in front of a Pakistani High Court for eloping and marrying the man she loved, Muhammad Iqbal. Police investigator Mujahid quoted the father as saying: "I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it." Muhammad Iqbal stated that it had been a prolonged engagement, and Farzana's father had become enraged only after Iqbal refused a demand for more money than the originally agreed amount of the bride price. Muhammad Iqbal strangled his first wife so that he would be free to marry Farzana, and police said he had been released after that murder when a "compromise" was reached with his first wife's family.
In July 2016, popular Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was strangled by her brother in an act of honour killing in Multan in the province of Punjab. She had reportedly raised controversy by posting controversial pictures of herself on social media, including one alongside a Muslim cleric, and her brothers had asked her to stop. The state was named as complainant in Qandeel's murder case, making it impossible for her family to pardon her killers. Qandeel's brother Waseem was arrested on the charges of murder. He confessed to murdering his sister, saying "she Qandeel Baloch was bringing disrepute to our family's honour and I could not tolerate it any further. I killed her around 11:30 p.m. on Friday night when everyone else had gone to bed."
An Amnesty International report noted "the failure of the authorities to prevent these killings by investigating and punishing the perpetrators." Honour killings are supposed to be prosecuted as ordinary murder, but in practice, police and prosecutors often ignore it. The Pakistani government's failure to take effective measures to end the practice of honour killings is indicative of a weakening of political institutions, corruption, and economic decline. In the wake of civil crisis, people turn to other alternative models, such as traditional tribal customs. In 2016, Pakistan repealed the loophole which allowed the perpetrators of honour killings to avoid punishment by seeking forgiveness for the crime from another family member, and thus be legally pardoned.
In some rural parts of Pakistan, the male-dominated jirga, or tribal council, decides affairs and its executive decisions take primacy over state legislation. A jirga arbitrates based on tribal consensus and tribal values among clients.:150 Tribal notions of justice often include violence on client's behalf.:149
Human rights are natural rights, fundamentally ensured to every human, regardless of nationality, race, gender, or ethnic group. Through the ongoing work of the United Nations, the universality of human rights has been clearly established and recognized in international law.
In March 1996, Pakistan ratified the CEDAW, or the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.:102 By ratifying CEDAW, Pakistan promises to abolish discriminatory laws and establish tribunals and public institutions to effectively protect women.CEDAW, as a human rights treaty, notably targets culture and tradition as contributing factors to gender-based discrimination. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, entreating states not to invoke custom, tradition, or religious consideration to avoid their obligation to eliminate violence against women.
According to Amnesty International, if a government is negligent in prosecuting perpetrators, it is liable and complicit in those abuses.:103 The role of the modern nation-state is to ensure full protection of universal human rights. The prevalence of honour killings in Pakistan underscores the Pakistani government's systematic failure in ensuring fundamental human rights to women.
However, international organizations and feminists[which?] globally have been criticized[by whom?] for upholding a Western-centric agenda[clarification needed] when engaging in honour-killing activism. Long-standing discourses[which?] on the universality of human rights versus cultural relativism indicate tensions in international activism for women's rights[further explanation needed]. But cultural relativism can be partially resolved when local activists make clear that cultural customs are harmful to women and in violation of international human rights standard[non sequitur]. Cultural and religious customs are constantly evolving and it is necessary to partner with regional activists in Pakistan to be at the forefront for demanding change.:99
Human rights activists in Pakistan have been on the forefront of change and reform to end the practice of honour killings. Emphasizing universal human rights, democracy, and global feminism, Pakistani activists seek legal reform to criminalise the practice and protect victims from abuse.
Asma Jehangir, chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and Hina Jilani are Pakistani lawyers reinvigorating civil society to become critical of the Pakistani state's failure to ensure fair rights and benefits to its female citizenry. Jehangir and Jilani founded Pakistan's first legal aid center in 1986 and a women's shelter called Dastak in 1991 for women fleeing from violence.
Other notable Pakistani activists working on reporting and deterring honour killings include Aitzaz Ahsan, Anis Amir Ali, Ayaz Latif Palijo, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Shahnaz Bukhari.
In June 2016, the Council of Islamic Ideology, a body of Muslim clerics which advises the government on compliance of laws with the Shariah, has "decreed that honour killings are un-Islamic".
The law on honor killings has been reformed several times throughout the years. On December 8, 2004, under international and domestic pressure, Pakistan enacted a law that made honour killings punishable by a prison term of seven years, or by the death penalty in the most extreme cases. Women and human rights organizations were, however, skeptical of the law's impact, as it stopped short of outlawing the practice of allowing killers to buy their freedom by paying compensation to the victim's relatives, which was problematic because most honour killings are committed by close relatives. In March 2005, the Pakistani parliament rejected a bill which sought to strengthen the law against the practice of honour killing declaring it to be un-Islamic. The bill was eventually passed in November 2006. However, doubts of its effectiveness remained. In 2016, Pakistan repealed the loophole which allowed the perpetrators of honour killings to avoid punishment by seeking forgiveness for the crime from another family member, and thus be legally pardoned.
In January 2017 a Pakistani mother was sentenced to death for killing her daughter by burning her alive, for ‘bringing shame to the family’ by marrying against her family’s wishes.
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95% of reported Karo kari cases in Sindh were merely a false claim on woman, says research.
95% of reported Karo kari cases in Sindh were merely a false claim on woman, says research. PHOTO: FILE
SINDH: Around 95% of reported karo kari cases in Sindh are false claims on women, according to research.
Honour Killing, locally known as ‘karo kari’ is an act of murder due to the belief that the victim has brought dishonour upon the family. In Sindh, the gender based violence, is on a rise. Often women are killed in the name of a ‘karo kari’ which is believed to restore honour and reputation of a family.
“A United Nations (UN) report on woman violence stated that one-third of woman population in the world suffers aggression from men,” quoted former chairperson of National Commission on the Status of Women, Anees Haroon.
Akhlaq Ansari, a short story writer and novelist, believes that Sindh is a region with deep-rooted customs and cultural background, one of which is karo kari. The violence on women is a common tradition which cannot be easily slashed.
The Regional Director (SPO) Sindh Ghulam Mustafa Baloach supported the opinion stating that women are always taught to be inferior gender in this region. Consequently, they have accepted man’s narrow mindset and aggression as their fate.
“Women in Sindh are considered as an inferior gender and are believed to be incapable of making decisions,” said President Survivor Support Unit (SSU) Maqbool Mashori.
“In this mindset, only a strong constitution on woman protection can reduce the number of sexual exploitation cases,” says Ansari.
However, Advocate Muhammad Saleem Jaiser argues that courts in Pakistan have adopted women protection laws but they are commonly been violated. He further said that it is the responsibility of citizens to abide by the law.
While karo kari is a deep-rooted custom, Mashori proposed some solutions stating that Muslim clerics should stress in their teachings that islam is not a religion of violence and does not allow to kill. He further stated that ‘jirga system’ should be banned and civil society should create awareness about women rights.
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