Pakistan: Violence Against Women Rose in 2009; Hundreds Die From “Honor” Killings
Friday, February 11, 2011 10:15 AM

Cases of violence against women in Pakistan increased by 13% in 2009, according to statistics gathered by the Aura Foundation. The statistics indicated that there were 8,548 incidents of violence against women in the last year.

The foundation’s representative, Rabeea Hadi, spoke about these findings, expressing “outrage and resentment over this state of affairs where women and girls are being murdered, kidnapped and subjected to various forms of violence, including killings in the name of ‘honour’, suicides, acid throwing and stove-burning with shameless impunity and the state functionaries are doing nothing except lip-service before TV cameras and that, too, only in some high-profile cases.” In view of the lack of response from the interior ministry or provincial governments, Hadi urged various women’s rights groups to take much-needed action.

Among the findings are killings in the name of “honor.” The Aura Foundation, as well as the autonomous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), found that over 600 women were killed for “honor” in 2009. However, this number could be even higher as many killings go unreported, especially in rural areas.

“Honor” killings typically involve the murder of women “suspected of having sexual relations outside marriage; choosing who to marry rather than accepting decisions made by families; or behaving in other ways that are seen as ‘immoral’,” according to HRCP. The term “honor” killing has emerged because these murders take place when a male family member’s ‘honor’ has been perceived as damaged by these women’s actions.

Though women over 18 years old have the legal right to marry independently of their family’s will, the killings continue. In view of this threat, many educated women are afraid to assert their independence and rights.

Despite the fact that “honor” killings are legally murder, Islamic provisions within Pakistan allow for the victim’s family members to “forgive” the murderer and instead receive blood money as compensation. This is problematic since the perpetrator is in fact a family member, so the crime is often resolved by a father forgiving the son for the murder, or vice versa.

To stop these crimes, Fouzia Saeed, director of the NGO Mehergarh, recommends “non-compoundability” in the law, so that no instances of forgiveness be allowed. Otherwise, violence against women will go unpunished and may continue to increase.

Compiled from: Violence Against Women Rose 13% in 2009, 2 February 2010; Pakistan: Hundreds of Women Die for “Honour” Each Year, 27 January 2011, WURN.