It’s time to end ‘Honor’ killing
Lamia Sameen Malik
“O beware my Lord of Jealousy…” as Lago utters these words it sets off a chain of events that leads to Othello murdering Desdemona. Our world is full of Lago’s variants. Some do it for jealousy, others pride, and many just to find ‘acceptance’ in other people’s eyes.
Honor killing is a harsh reality that has been defined by Human Rights Watch as, “Acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce – even from an abusive husband – or (allegedly) committing adultery.” In the name of a patriarchal society, men can sadly murder female relatives to punish a behavior they deem unacceptable.
They believe women cannot exercise an independent choice because then she defies her family and social expectations. Narrating again the story of QandeelBaloch – her brother decided that the punishment for damaging honor of his family was to brutally murder her sister. While alive, Baloch expressed her sexuality in a manner that was unprecedented for Pakistan and made the country ‘uncomfortable.’ She was strangled to death as ‘honor killing’. Her brother easily neglected to see her as a human being and her inherent dignity was over looked. As Khalid Hosseini says, ‘Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman.Always.’
Nevertheless, this is not a country or a Pakistan specific problem, but a global one. Research by humanitarian experts have found 87,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 where more than half of them were killed by intimate partners or family members. This means that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every single day. They also found Asia to have the biggest number i.e. 20,000, trailed by Africa (19,000), the Americas (8,000) Europe (3,000) along with Oceania (300).
Contrary to most beliefs, Islam does not support honor killings. The protection of life, be it man or woman, is regarded as an imperative objective of Shariah i.e. Islamic Code of life. The inherent dignity of humanity is the core of Islamic teaching. They recognize the goodness of all people at birth: “We create man in the finest state.” Islam considers all human life sacred and requires dignity to be preserved: ‘We decreed to the Children of Israel that if anyone kills a person – unless in retribution for murder or spreading corruption in the land – it is as if he kills all mankind, while if any saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind.’ The notion of honor killing is not unique to any culture or religion. It is reflected in several countries: for instance, in Britain the fifth wife of Henry VIII was killed based on accusations of adultery.
In Peru, the laws of the Incas permitted husbands to starve their wives to death for committing adultery. In Mexico, Aztec laws allowed females to be stoned or choked if charged with adultery. In Ancient Roman times, a male had a right to kill a related woman if she engaged in pre or extra-marital relations.
Still, the unifying truth of honor killing remains. Honor killing denies victims a voice and fails to speak to the larger social structures of patriarchy that perpetuate all forms of violence against women. Blaming certain cultures or religions ‘ignores the fundamental issue of patriarchy, tribalism, control and power over women’.
Ultimately, ending this human sacrifice will require education, public-awareness, stable law enforcement, and a dedicated collaboration amongst government, community, religious leaders and the civil society. The writer has 9 years of experience in addressing economic and social gaps, with institutions such as The World Bank, and International Organization for Migration.