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Study the Issue: Honor Killings Around the World

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A husband murdered his wife based on a dream that she had betrayed him. A young woman’s throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad had been dedicated to her over the radio. A teenaged boy is sent by the family to murder his sister because she was rapped. All three woman murdered, all three in the name of ‘honor’. Now to understand why this happens we first must understand what honor killings are and why they occur. Honor killings come from tribal law, in tribal law a man’s honor is built by his possessions, one of them being the women or woman that belong to him or his family, his wife, sister, mother, and so forth. But if one of these women make a makes on offence such as marital infidelity, premarital sex, flirting, or even failing to serve a meal on time she lowers his honor, his family’s honor, and her family’s honor. The only was to bring back his honor is to kill her. This is an honor killing.

First let’s get to know tribal law, specifically the laws surrounding a man’s honor

Originally the tribal code was supposed to be gender equal in a sense, meaning that if a woman dishonors her husband/ family with another man, both the kari and the karo will be sentenced to death. But in most instances the karo is unpunished because he can pay compensation for his life to the man who the kari belonged to, this is called a faislo. Unlike a formal justice system with a faislo the guilty party asks for it and if both sides agree it is set up. The point of the faiso is not to find truth or punish but to restore the balance disturbed by the woman. Compensation can be money, a new wife or both. In a faislo a razinama is signed which withdraws the complaint against the kari or karo. But to break a faislo is not dishonorable, if a man’s honor is at stake then violence is not a crime. That’s why many times a kari or a karo is killed even after payment and promise of safety. Making it easy for people to make money, get a new wife, or cover up a crime knowing full well that if it goes to court it will be dealt with leniency. Also in tribal law in the case of a murder you are required to pay money to the victim’s family. Which is why most people cover up their murders as honor killings so they can avoid paying and the death penalty.

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Man who kill their wives or female relatives and cover it up with honor killings. If the murder is tried in tribal court and is found to not have been an actual honor killing the murdurer will have to pay blood money to the victim’s family, but not if the woman was killed in a real honor killing.

Honor killings happen all over the world such as Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda and the United Kingdom. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that the annual world‐wide number of ‘honor’ killing victims is 5000 women. However, many women’s groups in the Middle East and South Asia and researchers suspect these figures and believe that the victims are at least four times this. With this happening at such a high rate around the world the best was to really get a handel on the issue is to focus on one particular area, Pakistan. A survey placed Pakistan at number three in the world’s most dangerous countries for women. In 2012 at least 913 women and girls were murdered in the name of honour in Pakistan, which constitutes seventeen HMs every week. But the true numbers on these murders are unknown due to the unwillingness of the victims families to report them, they are usually masked as accidents or suicides.

In patriarchal society they have developed their own court and system, which they call The Jirga system. This is a tribal system of justice which is actively practiced in Pakistan to settle legal cases and disputes, even though this system is banned my the government.

The Jirga system is headed by a tribal chief or landlord that is agreed upon by both sides. Each side picks two advisers to lead there case. The main objective of all this isnt to find truth and punish the perpetrator like you might think, but to restore balance and compensate the damage. Honor killings are not considered a crime by the jirga system but a legitimate action of the man whose family was dishonoured (Participatory Development Initiative PDI.

Over the years the Pakistani government has tried to improve situations by creating new laws. Article 25 of pakistan’s constitution reads; “all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of the law” article 25; there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone” but even with this nothing is being done to help women or punish honor killings. Domestic violence is dealt with under section 299-338 of pakistan penal code which deals with offenses “affecting the human body”. In 1990 no man has been criminally prosecuted under any of these sections for assaulting or murdering his female relative, but as we saw before it was happening. The Qisas and Diyat Ordinance of 1990 replaced parts of the PPC giving control to the victim’s family meaning that the law cannot prosecute without the family’s permission. They can choose not to report the crime or to pardon the criminal at any point before the execution of the sentence. They can also choose to be compensated, and the law must help the victims to achieve their objective. Because of the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance the impression was given that honor killings are a family affair and not a place to inteven. If a brother kills his sister because of honor the father will forgive him.

The law can prosecute a culprit that is forgiven but chooses not to unusually

In the PPC there are also many loopholes that can be used when these cases are tried in the court. According to PPC section 306 if a father kills his child or grandchild he can’t get a death penalty and the maximum time he can get is 14 years, but for the murder of a stranger they can get the death penalty or life in jail. Also self defence in islamic law is wider than in the PPC and can be used in court. Because according to the court, the Qur’anic verse 34 of Sura Al-Nisa establishes men as the custodians of women” therefore a man that kills another man for defiling his property is an act of self defence. It usto be that men were protected by section 300 of the PPC; “culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation causes the death of the person who gave the provocation” men could argue this law after killing their wives or female family members. The “self defence” and the “sudden provocation” were left out when the Qisas and Diyat law was introduced in 1990. But the courts have slowly reintroduced these laws even though they know that most of these crimes are planned out before. Many Pakistani judges choose to reinforce discriminatory norms rather than gender equal laws out of fear that if not it will hurt both Pakistan and islam and it is their job to protect it. But all this is only relevant if the murder already took place, what about actions that can be taken to prevent these killings.

In Pakistan It is nearly impossible for women to report crimes against them. If they do try the police will make it hard on them, refusing to file a complaint or they even refuse to document the injuries. They might also use these complaints as leverage to demand bribes from the accused. Under Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto a number of women’s police stations were built to help women feel more comfortable, but they were under equipped and inoperable. Despite the court ruling that female suspects be interrogated by women cops women continue to be detained and abused at regular police stations. Even if the complaint is registered the police will tamper with the victim’s statement after receiving a payoff, they will interview family elders instead of witnesses or close a case based on the accused’s oath. Making it pointless to report these crimes. Because many woman in Pakistan cannot read or write it makes very easy to tamper or chance there reports, giving them no real way of getting help.

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