A Paradox: Killing for Honor?

In Pakistan, approximately 400 women are killed every year for disrespecting a family’s name. In the past three years, Pakistan remains the country with the most frequent honor killings against women, and the annual number has continued to increase rapidly. If a woman dares to refuse an arranged marriage, want a divorce, have an unapproved relationship, become pregnant, fight for custody of her children, elope, or even look at a man in an “inappropriate manner”, she could become targeted for murder by her family members.
Historically, honor killings have been around for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Roman times. The father of the house was allowed to kill an unmarried but sexual daughter, or his adulterous wife. Other types of honor killings were popular in medieval Europe, but today most of these types of killings occur in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Arab countries would proudly show off the murder weapons in order to increase honorable status. In Arab countries, the first honor killings date back to Pakistan where families would bury their newborn baby girl alive in order to preserve her virginity forever. The practice is not religious, but perhaps cultural, although some countries will say it is part of a religious defense plea.
Some people believe that honor killings have stemmed from Islamic teachings. However, Islam does not approve of or condone murder without lawful reason. More recently people have been claiming honor killings as a way of the Quran. Muslim teachings do not allow people to commit murder no matter how religiously justified. It is thought that these recent justification patterns stem from poor teachings, but they actually predate the Islamic religion. Honor killings usually face trial, but often the killer receives no punishment, because Islam likes to avoid violence as much as possible!
Previously, honor killings were often not tried, especially if the family showed forgiveness towards the murderer. If there happened to be a trial and the perpetrator sentenced to prison, this could be avoided, if the family expresses forgiveness. Typically, if a prison sentence was to be carried out, it would only be for five years.
Recently, internet personality Qandeel Baloch was strangled to death by her brother because he did not approve of her internet fame and selfies she would post. Although these types of killings have been frequent occurrences over hundred of years, this one particular death sparked an outrage in her many fans and prompted the Pakistani government to react.
In October, Pakistan’s government passed a new law to try and protect their women. Any man responsible for the killing of their family member in the name of honor will be subject life in prison or sentenced to death. If the family forgives the murderer, the death penalty will be lifted. However honor killers must still face a twenty-five year prison sentence. Pakistanis still remain cautious because the judge still needs to determine whether or not the murder qualifies as an ‘honor killing.’ If the judge declares that the murder was because the woman of the family eloped, there could be much less severe punishment.
This new law has provided hope for women’s rights activists, because they believe this is one more baby step closer to protection of a woman’s human rights. Of course, while some are expressing appreciation for the new law, others are expressing anger and resistance. More traditional Muslims fear this law will pollute Pakistan to a culture of western values.

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