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Honour Killing : A Tradition To Maintain Honour or A Farce?

Violence against women is not confined to South Asia and the Middle East but is also prevalent throughout the world. In Pakistan certain social precedents, traditions and customs justify acts of torture and violence such as acid attacks on women but also murder when a family’s honour or izzat is at stake.

In Balochistan it is known as Siyah Kari (honour killing), in Sindh as Karo Kari (karo being man; kari being woman), in Punjab as Kala Kali (kala being man; kali being woman) and lastly in Khyper Pakhtunkhwa as Tor Tora  (tor being man; tora being woman).

No matter what it is called in different languages it means the same thing, to murder men and women on the accusation of illicit pre-marital or extra-marital relations. However majority of the rural population in Pakistan considers such treatment as justifiable for Zinna (adultery) is punishable by death in Islam.

Sadly it is the women who mostly pay the price for bringing shame upon their family. These women are not judged and murdered by an outside third party but by the jirgah/panchayat (informal tribal court) of the tribe/village and their own kinsmen such as fathers, brothers, husbands, sons and uncles without any justice.

What happens to the women who survive?

Generally they do not survive and if they do they either seek refuge with the the pirs (ordained spiritual leader)or  Wadero (Sindhi feudal lord)/ Sardar ( Punjabi chief) in which case the women are subjected to physical abuse and rape and later sold off as slaves.

Who makes the decision to punish these men and women?

The local the jirgah/panchayat are brought together to decide the fate of the accused- if not already killed. The Wadero/Sardar also have a major say in the matter since they demand a certain share of the blood money. When a female is killed a man has to take the blame for being involved in illicit relations. In order to avoid death the man’s family can compensate the woman’s family honour by giving them blood money or by watta satta which is exchange of women between families.

Common causes for Honour Killing besides illicit relations?

Child marriages, watta satta and personal feuds are underlying factors. Men have no remorse in killing their own mothers, sisters and daughters as an excuse to kill another man or demand blood money from the co-accused.

Another reason is inheritance where women are accused in order to usurp her share as well as demand extra money as compensation to restore the family’s honour.

Honour Killing is also used as a weapon to control and suppress women so that they do not take a stand against gender discrimination and injustice. The woman is killed and set as an example for the entire village/tribe to discourage other women from taking bold steps.

Has the State/Instituitions taken any step regarding the matter?

The police in rural Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan will never go against the wishes of their Wadero or Sardar and hence no action is taken against the murderers. If by chance the case reaches the court the cost of proceeding is very high and the murderer is freed on bail after appearing before the court two or three times.

However the situation does not look so bleak since the Chief Justice of Pakistan has recently taken SUO MOTO notice of honour killing in Shikarpur on March 19, where two women were murdered on the orders of the jirga. The IG Sindh has been summoned personally on March 20.

As a society, it is our duty to raise our voice against this injustice. We need to create awareness that Honour Killing is not an Islamic tradition but a tribal pre-Islamic Arab custom to suppress women by a dominating male society. We need to educate people especially women and let them know what their rights are. Women are not disposable items; they are a vital part of our society’s existence.

I personally feel that honour killing is a heinous crime and the people who are involved in the distribution of this evil practise should be treated as criminals and be brought to justice.

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