Honor killings in Pakistan have increase to an acme in recent years or might be there is a media climb on coverage for the issue that lead to highlighted the issue and ultimately taking some concrete actions from state to curb the crime in Pakistani society.
In July 2016, days after the ‘honour’ killing of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, a committee comprising lawmakers from both the lower and upper houses of parliament unanimously approved two bills aimed at tackling ‘honour’ killings and boosting rape convictions. A joint session of the Parliament unanimously approved anti-honour killing and anti-rape bills moved by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar on 6 October 2016. Some 500 women are killed each year in Pakistan at the hands of family members over alleged damage to ‘honour’ that can involve eloping, fraternizing with men or any other infraction against conservative and so-called conventional values that govern women’s humility. In a majority of cases, the victim is a woman and the killer is a relative who escape punishment by seeking forgiveness for the crime from family members. The legislation on honour killings will introduce strict punishment for the convicts making it tougher than the ordinary murder cases. Under the new law relatives of the victim would only be able to pardon the killer if he is sentenced to capital punishment. However, the culprit would still face a mandatory life sentence of twelve-and-a-half years.
The perpetrators of honour killings – in which the victim, normally a woman, is killed by a relative – often, walk free because they can seek forgiveness for the crime from another family member. Rape conviction rates meanwhile are close to zero per cent, largely due to the law’s reliance on circumstantial evidence and a lack of forensic testing. A 2005 amendment to the law pertaining to ‘honour’ killings prevented men who kill female relatives pardoning themselves as an “heir” of the victim. But punishment was left to a judge’s discretion when other relatives of the victim forgive the killer – a loophole which critics say is exploited. The law minister had earlier said, “We have plugged all loopholes in the anti-honour killing legislation.”
A milestone has been achieved after completion of the legislation against the crime but despite all of this the law still has a long way to go before it will have a tangible impact on the Pakistani society so as there is a certain gap between the law and reality..! As Pakistani society is complex within its behavior, contextual approach, religious fundamentalism, myths and customs. there is also a lack of law enforcement, a weak criminal justice system, lack of political will and lack of public pressure that defiantly make hurdle for smooth transaction and implementation of the law to the level of oppressed section of society at grass root level.
Honor killings have always been a bane for Pakistan, but the bill is still a “first step” we need to have implementation at all level , the time is now as people have recently more expressive and intolerant against the honour killing. Qandeel Baloch’s murder case could be a test case to be judging according to this newly formulated law. The high profile case will be set an example and will act as a restriction for honour killing.
Will we motivate enough as a nation to end this crime against women and eventually law enforcement segment would able to address the challenge of implication coming fourth?
The author is an advocate for women’s rights, social activist, multi media journalist & development entrepreneur and can be reached at [email protected].She tweets @samreen_ideas