On Sunday I posted an article from The Star about the honour killings of five women in Pakistan. According to reports, three teenage women were beaten, shot and buried while still alive because they intended to marry men whom they had chosen, rather than following traditional, religious arranged marriage laws. Two older women suffered the same fate for supporting the younger women.
The Guardian has also reported on this story, including a reference to a UN report on honour killings worldwide:
Despite routine statements on behalf of the rights of women and the establishment of committees and commissions to study those rights, successive governments have done virtually nothing to secure the life and liberty of women as citizens of this country. Violence, or the threat of violence, at home, in the fields, or in the street, is a daily reality for the vast majority of Pakistani women. The need to confront the problem directly has become all the more urgent since there is a growing perception that the curve of violence against women, including their murder on the grounds of ‘honour’, has been steadily rising. Various statistics cited by human rights organisations as well as government agencies support this perception. The Government of Sindh has reported an annual figure of 300 for such killings, which corroborates the findings of the Sindh Graduates Association (cited in Amnesty International’s 1999 report on honour killings in Pakistan) placing the number of killings at 132 for just the first three months of 1999. This would suggest at least one honour killing a day in Sindh. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [HRCP] the situation was no different in the year 2000 where for the first quarter alone it had received reports of 119 killings in Sindh. In the Punjab the HRCP placed the number of reported cases for the first three quarters of the year at 240.1
Finally, speaking at a seminar on violence against women organised by the Pakistan Women Lawyers Association in Karachi, the Inspector General Police of Sindh stated that in the year 2000 nearly 1000 women were killed in Pakistan out of a total world figure of 5000 honour killings.2 If this figure is correct, then nearly 25 per cent of the women killed for ‘honour’ were killed in Pakistan.
Although it is difficult to ascertain the accuracy of these statistics as these are compiled mostly from press reports and therefore do not include cases that go unreported, one can proceed on the assumption that several hundred women are being murdered in Pakistan every year in the name of ‘honour’. Furthermore, while the numbers are important to determine the magnitude of the crime, it also should be taken as given that even one woman killed to redeem a man’s honour is one too many.
In recent years, the practice of honour killings has received a great deal of coverage in the press. Most of the reporting, however, does not convey the horror that is wrought in the lives of women, nor does it explain why it happens, how and with what consequences.