Pakistan

Honour killings in Pakistan and India

Honour killings in Pakistan and India – Part I

Mohammad Nafees
Senior Research Fellow, Center for Research and Security Studies who can be reached at mohammad.nafees@yahoo.com

This research was conducted to understand the causes and reasons for different crimes against women in Pakistan and India. Most of the data used was collected from local newspapers for the year 2018. Because of the absence of official data, the writer had to personally collect the information.

Though the data could not provide a complete landscape of the issue at hand, it does paint a grim picture of the issue. According to the available data, 55 per cent of crimes against women in Pakistan and 45 per cent in India were committed by close relatives, often blood relations. Women in both countries had to experience seeing their protectors turning predators.  Honour killing, sexual assault, domestic violence, and matrimonial dispute are some of the common crimes women face in both countries.

According to the data, 597 persons fell victim to any of these crimes in all regions of Pakistan.  Punjab had the highest number of victims (342) followed by Sindh, KP, Balochistan, Islamabad, FATA, and AJK. Worth noting is the data on FATA that showed zero occurrence of sexual assault and matrimonial disputes (Table 01).

Gender distribution of these crimes showed that females suffered the highest rate of these crimes (195 fatalities and 99 injuries) followed by children (infant to teenage) with 69 fatalities and 109 injuries, and male victims were (115 and 12).  Majority of male victims also became a target of honour killings and domestic violence (Table 02 and graph 1).

Graph 1: Gender distribution of social crimes against women in 2018

Linked to the sexual attraction for the opposite sex, honour killing and sexual assaults belie the feelings of love and respect. It is as much a paradox to find honour in killing as it is to find contentment in sexual assault.  This research attempts to focus on what makes the otherwise law-abiding citizens, in Pakistan and India, take up guns against or assault the other person.  I shall discuss these crimes in a series of columns. The first topic shall be honour killing in which I will explore incidents taking place in Pakistan. India will be covered in the next column.

Unlike terrorism, honour killing is committed without discrimination against any religion, caste, creed, and ethnicity. It has its own dynamics, making irrelevant all other considerations. For example, of the 209 women killed in Pakistan in 2018 in the name of honour, 47 were killed by close relatives such as fathers, brothers, and even mothers.   The perpetrators of the crime were Muslims, and so were their killers.

Social crimes are often the reflection of socio-cultural values and political policies of a country. They are also indicators of how tolerant or intolerant society is. Much of the honour killing in Pakistan is committed not as much by blood relations as by close relatives. Of all the honour killings held in Pakistan in 2018, 54% were carried out by close relatives and only 19% by blood relations. Among the close relatives, the highest number of crimes were committed by husbands. Sense of honour that trigger killing caught up equally with uncles, cousins, nephews, brothers-in-law, and fathers-in-law, as it had with parents and siblings.  

An eighteen-year-old girl living in Tahli Wala village of Wazirabad, Pakistan, might never have thought of the horrific consequences she suffered for loving a boy in her uncle’s in-laws. Caught together, the father of the girl thrashed the boy and sent him to his parents. Later, as their selfies became viral on social media, the girl was also burned alive. Her brothers helped the father complete this gory act. Despite all her hues and cries, nobody came for her help. She was later taken to hospital but could not be saved because of 90 per cent burns.

Social crimes and not terrorism claims most of the lives of women in Pakistan. Of the 1,133 fatalities recorded in Pakistan in 2018, only 20 involved women. On the contrary, almost 116 women were slain in the name of honour killing, during the same period. Terrorist attacks, as is well known, are carried out by hard-core militants, having affiliation with organizations carrying certain ideologies.  Honour killing, on the other hand, is carried out by those with no past history of crime, no affiliation with any organization having agenda for such crimes, and a majority of them carried out by the relatives of the victim.

Females are not the only victims. A large number of males also fall prey to the crime. Out of 222 casualties of honour killings that I recorded in 2018, 97 were of men’s – more than 40% of the total victims. This data reflects only a fraction of “honour killing” in Pakistan because there is no reliable source from where complete and reliable data can be accessed. The website of the Punjab Police shows 244 fatalities from honour killings in the province, while the website of the Sindh Police shows 108 fatalities for the year 2018. Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has no database for this crime, reflecting an apathy on the part of the law enforcement agencies towards this crime.

One of the reasons for the involvement of relatives in this crime is the provision in Pakistani law, which gives legal heir the right to pardon the guilty person.  

Notwithstanding the importance of maintaining data on such an important issue, the very act of killing someone in the name of honour, which in fact is an ego-satisfying action, is horrific and gory to the core.  Some of the killings were carried out in a brutal way. A man’s eyes were gouged out by his father and brothers after he expressed his desire to marry his own free-will in Naseerabad area of Loralai district. Accused of sexually harassing a six-year-old girl, a boy aged 10 was hacked to death in Hasso village in Mansehra. A couple from Balochistan, who married without the consent of their parents were attacked in the outskirts of Karachi resulting in the death of the husband, while the wife was seriously injured.  A man chopped off limbs of his wife and her alleged paramour for ‘honour’, leaving them critically injured. He fled the crime scene in Kot Dadu Ghalu area of Bahawalpur.

In performing this honourable ritual, the perpetrators on both sides of the border behave in a similar way.

​Honour killings in Pakistan and India – Part II

Senior Research Fellow, Center for Research and Security Studies who can be reached at mohammad.nafees@yahoo.com

In the previous column, we discussed the incident of honour killings in Pakistan, how the atrocities are committed in the name of honour, and the way the data is compiled and maintained by the relevant departments. In this column, we will discuss the incidences of honour killings in India. Pakistan and India are two different countries in terms of their political and religious background.  Do these two major differences bring any change in human behaviour towards social crimes? This is the question for which an answer will be searched through this column.

In Delhi, the capital city of India, a Muslim and killed a Hindu boy, Ankit Saxena, in the name of honour, because the Hindu boy had fallen in love with the Muslim boy’s sister.  In Haryana, a young couple planning to marry were brutally murdered by their parents and close relatives. When an uncle of the girl was reached out to find as to how could they muster the courage to kill a young couple. Frothing at the mouth with anger, he justified the act saying “What was done to them was the right thing to do. We had to set an example.” In another case, a 19-year-old girl was allegedly burned alive by her father in Chainpur Sarkar village, in Madhya Pradesh’s Khandwa district, in India, because she was planning to marry a man outside her caste.

A desire for inter-caste marriage quite often ends up in a fatal reaction in India. However, the Hindus living in Pakistan face a tragedy opposite to what their religious brethren experience in India.

Hindus in Pakistan claim that their daughters are kidnapped by influential religious people with agenda. The girls, the parents alleged, are first converted to Islam and later married to Muslim boys.

Two most influential Pirs (saints) of Sindh province, Ayub Jan Sarhandi and Pir Abdul Haq alias Mian Mithu, are notorious for providing shelter to Muslim men involved in the kidnapping of Hindu girls. Pir Ayub Jan Sarhandi takes pride in being the saviour of love. Interestingly though, his dedication to the cause is only confined to protecting those Hindu girls who allegedly fall in love with Muslim men.   Never did he try to play this role of “saviour of love” when women are killed in Sindh in a brutal act called Karo Kari (honour killing).

According to a BBC report, dated December 7, 2016, Indian police registered 251 cases of honour killings in 2015, whereas 28 cases were reported in 2014. This steep rise in honour killings in India is attributed to the manner in which the Indian police records data of murder cases. People killed in the name of honour are recorded separately from those killed in other kinds of murder attempts.  However, women activists in India claim that the data still vastly differs from actual figures. One study in 2011 suggested that 900 people were being murdered, in the name of honour, every year in India

That for more than 75 years, since partition separated both the countries, such a brutal crime has failed to attract governments’ attention speaks volumes of the cultural influence that has taken thunder away from a crime deserving strict action.

Even if the non-official figure of 900 fatalities for honour is accepted as correct, it still appears to be less when compared with the non-official figures of 700 victims for similar crimes in Pakistan, especially when we apply population difference that exists between these two countries. Is it because of the secular democratic system practised in India?

Irrespective of the figure​s​, the mere fact that honour killing is being practised in India, is a proof that neither the country has learned from its past experiences nor has it grown out the habit of casting aspersion on others because of their caste. Marrying within the same religion and caste is the only norm widely acceptable in India; any deviation to this age-old tradition is bound to invite wrath from the society.

Of the eight incidents of honour killings held in India during 2018, only one was the result of a love affair. In it, the girl’s father with the help of his two sons chopped off the boy’s genitals. The incident happened in the Northern Indian city of Gorakhpur.  Except for this, all other incidents were triggered by inter-caste or inter-faith marriages or affairs.

If honour killing in Pakistan is triggered by free-will marriages or love affairs, in India it also carries the weight of religion and caste-based hatred.  Although these incidents occur in countries with different cultural dispensation, nature, and style in which the crime is conducted remain identical. Among all social crimes, honour killing is perhaps the most fatal in nature. It leaves a little chance of the survival of the victims. 

The question is how come people in both countries could commit this gruesome crime with ease and no remorse. The answer lies in the perception that does not take honour killing as a crime. In fact, it is a badge of honour for them. Neither religion nor any law can interfere in this prevalent misperception.

Despite living in two different countries, practising different political systems and following different religions, the plight of women remains identical in both countries. The ascendant cases of honour killing demand that both the countries adopt new methods and strategies to deal with the menace. 

The next part of this column will discuss cases of “sexual violence” which is also linked with a sexual relationship but receives different treatment from society because of the way the act is carried out.

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