Honour killing, also spelled as "honor killing," is a term used to describe the murder of a person, typically a woman, by her own family or close relatives, due to the belief that she has brought shame or dishonor upon the family or community. These killings are often carried out in the name of protecting the family's or community's perceived honor, reputation, or social standing, even if the alleged transgression is relatively minor or subjective.
The reasons for honour killings can vary, but they are often associated with perceived violations of social or cultural norms, such as:
Romantic relationships or marriages that the family disapproves of, often involving choices made by the victim against the family's wishes, such as marrying someone from a different caste, religion, or social class. Allegations of adultery or premarital sex, even if they are not proven or based on rumors and gossip. Violation of dress codes or modesty standards, such as not adhering to conservative clothing norms. Acts considered as defiance of the family's authority or traditions.Attempts to assert personal autonomy, particularly by women, which might be seen as a challenge to patriarchal authority.
Honour killings have been a particularly prevalent issue in the Sindh province of Pakistan, although it is important to note that they are not limited to this region. Sindh, like other parts of Pakistan, has grappled with this deeply rooted issue, and the ratio of honour killings in the province has been a matter of concern for human rights organizations and activists.
The reasons for the prevalence of honour killings in Sindh are complex and multifaceted. They are often linked to a combination of cultural, social, and economic factors, as well as the patriarchal norms that exist in many parts of Pakistan. Some key factors contributing to honour killings in Sindh include:
Cultural and Traditional Norms: Traditional and cultural practices, including customs related to arranged marriages and family honor, play a significant role in honour killings in Sindh. Families may feel intense pressure to conform to these norms, even at the expense of the rights and choices of the individuals involved.
Feudal and Tribal Structures: In many parts of Sindh, feudal and tribal structures exert significant influence over local communities. These structures can perpetuate practices that protect the perceived honor of these groups, sometimes at the expense of individual rights.
Lack of Access to Justice: Weak law enforcement and a lack of access to justice can also contribute to the prevalence of honour killings. Perpetrators may go unpunished or face lenient sentences due to corruption, societal pressure, or a lack of resources.
Gender Inequality: Gender inequality and discrimination against women in Sindh and Pakistan as a whole are significant factors in honour killings. Women are often viewed as property or as having a subordinate role within the family, and any perceived transgressions against these norms can lead to violence.
As many as 132 persons, including 91 women, lost their lives in the incidents of honour killing and domestic violence during the last six months of 2023, as per the data collected by a social and women rights body Sindh Suhai Organization (SSO).
Chairperson SSO Dr Aisha Dharejo told The News that district Jacobabad witnessed the higher number of cases, where 19 people - including 12 women and 7 men - were killed on the pretext of honor killing, while 16 people were killed in district Kashmore, 12 in district Shikarpur, 7 in district Ghotki, 10 in district Sukkur, 5 in district Khairpur, 6 in Larkana and 48 in other districts.
Dr Aisha said first information reports (FIRs) are registered in 90 percent of cases, but the arrests of the accused persons are still a big challenge.
reventing honor killings is a complex and challenging task that requires a multi-faceted approach involving legal, social, and cultural changes. Honor killings are typically rooted in deeply ingrained cultural and social norms, so addressing this issue requires a comprehensive strategy. Here are some key steps and measures that can be taken to prevent honor killings:
Strengthen and enforce laws against honor killings and related crimes, such as forced marriages, domestic violence, and abduction.Ensure that perpetrators of honor killings face severe penalties, including life imprisonment or the death penaltyEstablish specialized courts or units to handle honor-related crimes efficiently and fairly.
Education and Awareness:
Promote education, especially for women and girls, as it can empower them to make informed choices and reduce their vulnerability.Launch awareness campaigns to educate the public about the illegality and immorality of honor killings and related practices.Encourage community leaders, religious figures, and influencers to condemn honor killings publicly and support gender equality.
Reporting and Monitoring:
Encourage the reporting of honor-related crimes and protect whistleblowers.Implement mechanisms to monitor and track incidents of honor violence and killings.Collaborate with law enforcement agencies and local organizations to gather data and respond effectively.
Promote responsible media reporting on honor killings to avoid sensationalism and instead focus on the injustice and cruelty of these acts.Encourage the entertainment industry to portray gender equality and respectful relationships in its content.Preventing honor killings requires a coordinated effort at various levels of society, including individuals, families, communities, governments, and international organizations. It may take time to change deeply entrenched cultural practices, but through persistent efforts, awareness, and legal reforms, progress can be made in reducing the incidence of honor killings
Noor Sehar Raees