06/13/2016, 10.43
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Pakistani activist: Stop calling them "honor killings", it is murder

by Kamran Chaudhry

In the past months three girls were killed and burned for disobeying their family. In 2015 more than 1,100 women died to "save the honor" of the family. Most of the violence occurs in the home, and they are very few those who denounce. The practice of "karo-kari", which justifies the murder of "corrupt women." The works of the Church in favor of women in danger.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - "There is no honor in murder, it's a real murder”, slams Sumera Saleem, of the Aurat Foundation, an organization that defends the rights of women, commenting to AsiaNews on the latest case of violence against a girl in Pakistan.

Pakistan made headlines yet again last week when Zeenat Bibi, after a mother burned alive her daughter for marrying a man of her own choosing.

Unfortunately the murders of this kind, she continues, " This has become a very serious issue and there is greater need for more awareness. If things go on like this, domestic violence is the next big thing "

The case sparked worldwide commendation. It is the third in as many months: 19-year-old Maria Sadaqat, was tortured then burned alive for refusing a marriage proposal from a school principal's son in Murree. In April, another young woman was drugged, killed, placed in a van, doused with petrol and set on fire upon order from a jirga (village council) in Abbottabad. She was punished for helping her friend escape the village to marry of her free will.

The practice of killing to "save the family honor" is an old and still very widespread custom in Pakistan. Historians believe it dates back to the 17th century when it spread the word "Karo-Kari" in Sindh province. The word "karo" means "corrupt man", while "kari" means "corrupt woman." Therefore the physical removal of a corrupt woman was (and is) justified from a cultural point of view to restore the lost honor of a family.

According to Human rights Commission of Pakistan HRCP, 1276 incidents of honour killings were reported in the period of Feb 2014-Feb 2016 and the first information report was filed in only 400 cases.Director Najamuddin, says: "Many cases are solved within the families and thus go unreported. Males step up to protect honor of the family in which females are considered personal property. This is an embarrassment for the whole society. Mere laws cannot change social attitudes and prevailing mindset".

In general, society accepts the abuse, and at times defends it. This is the case of the Council for Islamic ideology, which launched the proposal of "minor beatings" for disobedient women, in sharp contrast to what was stated by the (recently approved) Punjab law that punishes femicide and violence.

At the central level, in 2002 for the first time the forecasts of the National Policy for Development and Empowerment of Women have proposed a reform of legislation. Later, the term "honor" crime was defined with the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2004, within the Pakistan Penal Code. But violence remains, and is rooted in the mentality, as narrated in the documentary “A Girl in the River”, by the journalist and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who this year won the Oscar.

The Church and Catholic institutions are attempting to raise awareness about the problem at various levels. In 2007 the National Justice and Peace Commission presented a report that "unveiled" abuses, including the "karo-kari" system.

Sister Athens Angeles organizes the debates: "It is important for the Catholic faithful, who are in favor of life, to be aware of the evil that takes place in society and pray for it." So she suggested: "to establish a better dialogue between parents and children."

Other bodies are involved in social work, helping single women who are abandoned or repudiated by their families. This is the case of the missionaries of Mother Teresa and of the same Episcopal Conference: both have created centers to provide food and shelter to women in danger.

(Shafique Khokhar collaborated)

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