LAHORE, Pakistan—Farzana Parveen, a Pakistani woman of 25, was stoned to death on May 27 in front of a court in Lahore, Pakistan by nearly 20 members of her own family for marrying against their wishes.
Parveen and her husband Mohammad Iqbal, to whom she had been engaged for years, were approaching the court to contest kidnapping charges filed by her family. Parveen’s relatives, including her brothers, father, and former fiancé, fired shots into the air and attempted to drag Parveen away. When she resisted, they began beating her and her husband with sticks and bricks from a nearby construction site. Parveen suffered severe head injuries and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Her husband managed to escape.
Parveen’s family had arranged for her to marry her cousin, but she broke the engagement to marry another man. She and Iqbal, 45, began seeing each other after the death of his first wife, with whom he had five children.
All of Parveen’s family members escaped except her father, who turned himself in after the incident. He described his daughter’s death as an “honor killing.”
In some parts of Pakistan, it is believed that a Pakistani woman choosing her husband brings dishonor upon the family. In many cases, “honor killings” are committed by the victim’s family members, who suspect adultery or other culturally unacceptable sexual behavior. Such murders are not uncommon. The Aurat Foundation (AF), a women’s rights group based in Islamabad, reported 475 honor killings in 2008, 604 in 2009 and 557 in 2010. More recently, The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reported 918 women killed in the name of honor in 2012, and 869 in 2013.
Of the 869 killings reported in 2013, 359 were acts of Karo Kari. Described as a “crime of honour,” Karo Kari is a traditional custom whereby couples suspected of adulterous relationships are killed by their family members.
According to the HRCP, this practice is often abused due to the leniency of Pakistani law toward such customs.
“The law of Diyat allows the family of the victim to forgive the perpetrator. In honour crimes, the perpetrator is almost always related to the female by blood or by marriage. Thus the victim’s family usually is related to the perpetrator as well, and conveniently forgives their kin, absolving them of the murder.”
In December 2004, Parliament passed The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2004, also known as the “Honour Killings Act,” at the insistence of several women’s rights groups in Pakistan. This act officially became law in January 2005, and was intended to provide protection to any Pakistani woman and girl by criminalizing all murders committed in the name of honor and appropriately punishing the perpetrators of these crimes. Though the law defines Karo Kari as murder with penal punishments, there are numerous loopholes and limitations that prevent the law from effectively punishing the offenders and protecting the victims.
Many groups estimate that the number of honor killings is actually much higher, as many are not reported. But these are not the only crimes perpetrated against women and girls. According to the HRCP’s annual report for 2013, nearly 60 women were murdered simply for giving birth to a female child. In addition, only 18.3 percent of women were educated at the secondary level, and women made up only 28 percent of the workforce.
The UN and many other organizations have officially recognized the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in eliminating global poverty. To help reach gender parity in Pakistan, the HRCP called for land reforms that would increase women’s land ownership. They also recommended more female police stations, legislation against domestic violence, an increase in girls’ marriage age and enhanced female representation in government.
Sources: The Age, Aurat Foundation, BBC, Human Right Commission of Pakistan, NY Daily News