Pakistan: Women oppose honor killings

Pakistan: Women oppose honor killings

Douglas, Carol Anne

Pakistan: women oppose honor killings

ISLAMABAD–Human rights activists in Pakistan are campaigning to end “honor killings” of women who are considered to have disgraced their family by seeking divorce, marrying whom they please, or reporting rape. The campaign follows the murder of an ethnic Pashtoon woman, Samia Imran, outside the door of a law firm in Lahore.

Samia was married to a medical doctor who subjected her to frequent beatings and torture, according to her lawyer, Asma Jahangir. On April 6, Samia was shot dead by a hired killer while talking to her mother at the law firm. Police and Samia’s lawyers say her parents are behind the murder and her mother brought the killer with her. They believed that her seeking a divorce disgraced them.

Women staged protests around the country decrying the murder. In Lahore, hundreds of women activists occupied a government office, urging the local police to arrest Samia’s parents. Women also protested outside the parliament building in Islamabad, asking lawmakers to protect them from honor killings.

Jahangir said she is building a monument for the victims of honor killings in Lahore.

But Jahangir has now been threatened with death.

Members of the Peshawar Chamber of Commerce, which Samia’s father chairs, and local ulema (Islamic scholars) have publicly stated that the honor killing was in accordance with religious and tribal traditions. They have accused human rights lawyer of Asma Jahangir and her sister, Hina Jilani, of “misleading women.” Local ulema have issued a fatwa (religious edict) calling on believers to kill the two women. They held a rally at which men shouted they would kill the attorneys.

Amnesty Internal is protesting the government’s lack of action. “By remaining silent in the face of such blatant incitement to murder, and by taking no effective action against those responsible for the so-called honor killing of a young woman, the government of Pakistan has displayed a disturbing indifference to women’s rights,” Amnesty International said. “The authorities clearly have a responsibility to protect Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani.”

In 1998, several hundred honor killings were reported in Pakistan, but the true number is thought to be considerably higher. Most honor killings go virtually unpunished as the police and judiciary usually side with the killers.

–info from HURINET and Amnesty International

Copyright Off Our Backs, Inc. Aug/Sep 1999

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