THE CONCEPT OF HONOUR AND WHAT ARE HONOUR KILLINGS?
Author: Jaipreet Singh Alag, B.B.A.,LL.B(Hons.) From Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab.
As time has passed the societies around the world have progressed and become more educated than what they were a few decades back. However, there are still some societies which are primitive and backward and where redundant traditions and where certain inhuman and unlawful practices are followed even today. One such inhuman practice is that of honour killings which is prevalent in certain societies even today. However, if we have to understand the practice of honour killings in detail it is important to first of all understand the concept of honour. The concept of protecting honour is particularly common in countries which lack in terms of education and scientific awareness. Honour basically refers to the idea of respect which a person or a family or a social group carries in the society. Killing people for protecting the honour of the family or a social group is what constitutes honour killings. Although we are consistently progressing towards modernity and a liberal mindset but still, we have been unable to eradicate such evils from our society in totality. Though the scope of this research is confined to the study of honour killings but it is important to mention that in primitive societies honour crimes are not confined to honour killings only, it also includes crimes like forced marriages, assaults (particularly sexual) and confinement which are committed to protect the so-called honour. In most cases what we observe is that the family member of the victim is directly involved in honour killings for example brother, father, husband etc.
Different Types of Honour Killings
After knowing that what is the concept of honour and what are honour killings it is now important to understand that what are the different types of honour killings. The division between different types of honour killings is based to a large extent on the reasons for which honour killings take place. Therefore, we can divide the different types of honour killings on the following basis:
For Reasons of Marriage- Most of the societies where honour killing is still prevalent are mainly patriarchal and so women are supposed to follow the directions of the male members for any decision which is related to their life. This means that women are not free to even choose a life partner for themselves on the basis of their will. In such societies if women try to go against the patriarch and marry someone against the will of their family then it is said to bring dishonour to the name of the family and thus, the family members kill their own daughters and sisters to restore their honour.
For Reasons of Divorce- Just like women are not free to choose their marriage partner they are also not free to ask for a divorce. If a woman demands a divorce that is believed to get dishonour to the family thus leading to honour killing of such females.
For Reasons of Rape- If a female is raped then it is also considered to bring dishonour to the family name and the victim even though has no mistake of hers still has to pay with her life to restore the family honour.
For Reasons of Trying to Escape Tribal Justice- The conventional justice system has not yet reached several places and here tribal justice is what is prevalent system of justice giving. The system of tribals justice is not so modern and some what impractical and so if any female or even male tries to escape tribal justice system they are believed to bring dishonour to the family and are thus punished with their life.
Gender Bias in Honour Killings
It can be inferred from the above-mentioned types of honour killings that there is a gender bias that exists in such crimes. Females are certainly more prone to honour killings as compared to men. The honour of the families is strongly associated with the females and so their acts are also strictly regulated and when they try to do anything which according to the societal norms is believed to bring dishonour to the family or social group the female is punished by taking away her life. Be it sexual assault, confinement, or forced marriage, all these honour crimes are committed mostly against women. Although men are also subject to honour crimes but most of such crimes are committed against females only. Therefore, though the concept of honour killings in itself is problematic the gender bias engrained in the same is also a thing to worry about.
The Problem of Honour Killings in Pakistan
Background of the Situation
The factors such as education and modernity which have been discussed above can be particularly applied on the countries of south east Asia where most of the countries suffer from the problem of low literacy rates. One such country in south east Asia is Pakistan where the problem of honour killings is deeply engrained in the society. In Pakistan several hundreds if not thousands of people (mostly women) are killed in the name of honour killing. In Pakistan honour killings are referred to as Karo-Kari. Considering the per capita rate of honour killings around the world, Pakistan tops the list. Though it is very difficult to get any numbers about honour killings in Pakistan it is believed that every 1 in 5 persons killed in the name of honour is killed in Pakistan. As per some of the reports a total of 5000 people are killed in the name of honour around the world and out of them about thousand are only in Pakistan. Therefore, it is evident from these numbers that the situation pertaining to honour killings is pretty serious in Pakistan. The situation of honour killings in Pakistan is no different than the world in terms of gender bias rather the gender bias prevalent in Pakistan in honour killings is huge. The reason for the same is that the integrity of a Pakistani family majorly falls on the shoulders of the females and when the family members feel that this honour has been hampered then they resort to killing the female member to restore the honour irrespective of the fact whether there was any mistake on the part of the woman or not. For example, in the cases of rape as well the woman is killed even though there is no fault of hers in the entire situation. What is considered to bring the most dishonour to a family in Pakistan is a woman having sexual relations outside the family.
Laws in Pakistan to Prevent Honour Killings
Honour killing was for a long time did not have any mention in the laws of Pakistan however, it was in 2004 that the Pakistani legislatures woke up from their slumber and decided to pass the Honour Killing Act and made it a punishable crime but so was the greatness of these legislatures that they left a very visible loophole in the hole which was greatly misused by a lot of culprits for a long time. What they did was that they passed the legislation as a part of Pakistan Penal Code’s section 302(c) and this proved to be a blunder. This provision gave the relatives of the victim party the power to forgive the accused (rather the guilty party) and this was provided through an Islamic legal provision called as Diya. If the convict was forgiven by the victim’s heirs than the he was not punished and was freed from all sorts of liabilities that otherwise would have applied on him. This provision was more problematic because it was mostly the family members only who were involved in such killings. For the next 12 years the authorities continued with their slumber on this issue and only woke up when in 2016 after the killing of Qandeel Baloch wherein the legislature enacted the Anti-Honour Killing Law which made it compulsory for a person convicted for honour killing to at least serve life imprisonment even if the family of the victim forgave him. However, even in the case of Qandeel Baloch justice was not served and her brother who was the party responsible managed to evade the laws. This case shows that though the law against honour killings now exists in Pakistan, its implementation of the same is still pretty bad.
Reasons for the Increase in Honour Killings in Pakistan
From the facts and arguments presented above it is pretty clear that the cases of honour killings are on a rise in Pakistan and even the modernisation or the westernisation drive around the world is unable to control the same. Therefore, it is important that the reasons for this increase in the cases of honour killings are studied thoroughly. So, the following are the reasons for the same:
Formal laws being Tribalized- The inaction of the authorities on people taking law in their hands has propagated the impression that its okay to not obey the law. This tribalisation of the laws has thus led to an increase in the cases of honour killings.
Society becoming brutal- Day by Day the Pakistani society is becoming brutal and this has started to become inhuman and insensitive towards certain issues. This is because of the errors of the law-making authorities only because they have propagated the usage of brutal punishments for some crimes which are not even so heinous.
System of Judiciary being problematic- The inefficiency of the judicial system of Pakistan is one of the main reasons as to why the cases of honour killings are increasing day by day. The judiciary is not using its powers properly to make sure that such a heinous crime as honour killing does not go unpunished.
Economic Problems- It is rightly said that money directly affects the deeds of an individual. The state of economic affairs is doomed completely, people are suffering from poverty, hunger, and other economic issues. Having good financials helps people to get better education, health care and also improves their standard of living. Thus, the poor financial condition of Pakistan has only worsened their situation on the issue of honour killings.
Complete Failure of the Government- The government in Pakistan has totally failed in taking social measure to spread awareness regarding the evils of honour killings, rather they have been mostly silent on this issue which has adversely affected the developmental prospects of their country.
Surveys and International take on the situation in Pakistan
Surveys Conducted by various organisations
The above presented arguments are not just made out of thin air these can be seriously substantiated through the data or information which has been collected by various organisations through surveys. For example, Aurat Foundation conducted a survey on the situation of honour killings in Pakistan and found that it has seen an increase of more than 70% since the last 6 years (since 2016). Similarly in a conducted by the Thomas Reuters Foundation which was conducted in 2018 it was found that Pakistan is ranked 6th in the list of most dangerous countries for females. In a survey of Women’s Peace and Security Index Pakistan was among the worst performers and it was able to secure a poor rank of 164 out of a total of 167 countries, this was based on the parameters of financial inclusion and discrimination against females. Pakistan has also performed poorly on the grounds of discrimination in the workplace, being adjudged as the fourth worst nation when it came to the same. In a survey of Women’s Peace and Security Index it was found that a total of 15% of females in Pakistan face violence from the partners with whom they live.
After looking at these figures it can be easily inferred that the situation in Pakistan looks alarming. It is therefore of utmost importance that the concerned authorities start to look at these statistics seriously and arrive at certain strong decisions to bring these numbers under control or the situation will get out of control, though it is already pretty bad.
Take of International Organisations on Honour Killings
Various international organisations like the United Nations and the Amnesty International have taken a strong stand against honour killings in Pakistan and around the world. In the past few years Pakistan has seen a drastic increase in the rate of honour killings which has drawn the attention of these organisations towards it. Be it the secretary general of the United Nations or the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, everyone has criticized the concept of honour killings. Amnesty International in the year 1999 published a report under which it discussed the prevalence of honour killings in Pakistan. The report was based mostly on the ground work (field visits) done by the members of the organisation who interviewed not only the victims but their families as well. The report gave information about the various types of offensive acts which took place against both men and women for bringing dishonour to their family or social group for example defying arranged marriage, seeking divorce etc. The analysis provided by the report also give an idea that the numbers which are portrayed by the newspapers and the government are not true in totality and therefore cannot by completely relied upon. Thus, we can say that the total number of cases pertaining to honour related crimes in Pakistan are much more than what we actually know through the data which is provided to us.
Personal Views and Conclusion
Through this research paper I have tried to present an honest opinion and tried to justify it with the requisite data and facts. In this paper I have tried to cover the problem of honour killing in Pakistan in a lot of detail. Starting with an introduction to what is honour and honour killing I have discussed in detail the problem of honour killing in Pakistan, the reasons for its existence and the failure of the authorities in implementing the laws to prevent the same. In this paper you will get an idea about my insights on honour killing and its prevalence in Pakistan. So to conclude this research paper I will say that honour killing is nothing but a social evil which needs to be eradicated from the world at the earliest. Though in this research paper I have only focused on honour killings in Pakistan, this evil is not just confined to Pakistan it is prevalent in India and several other countries around the world as well. Therefore, it is time that we start to analyse the reasons as to why we have failed to eradicate this social evil from our society and make sure that the we as responsible citizens fight against it along with the government since, without the support of its citizens a government cannot reach any of goal successfully.
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