Pakistan Toughens Penalty for Honor Killings

Pakistan Toughens Penalty for Honor Killings

Lawmakers in Pakistan are finally taking steps to address the problem of honor killings. A serious problem for Pakistan’s society, it largely goes unpunished in the country.

This Thursday saw Pakistan make an important move towards curbing the number of honor killings. The figures have been mounting to alarming levels, as the country saw a veritable rising trend of the practice.

This is good news for Pakistan. But there were religious hard-liners who objected to the changes.

Honor Killings Are a Major Problem in Pakistan

In an effort to lower the number of honor killings, Pakistan started by taking the problem more seriously. Lawmakers made the penalties more difficult. Also, they closed a loophole that up to now would allow the killers to get away with murder.

Recently, Pakistan saw a serious of honor killings that were particularly gruesome. There was public outrage at the events. So the authorities were moved into action.

Last year in Pakistan, over 1000 women died as victims of honor killings. Often it was the father, the brother or the husband of the woman who had done it. Reasons that the killers offer for their actions have to do with the honor and the reputation of the family name. Transgressions that can tarnish the family name can be marrying a man of your own choice. Another offence that can’t be erased is being seen in the company of a man.

Those who commit the honor killings usually get away with it. The legal code of Pakistan is in accord with Islamic Sharia law. So it allows for the family of the victim to simply forgive the killer. After that, nothing more happens. Usually, in these cases, the killers are close relatives. So the family forgives them in most situations. That means that almost always the guilty relative goes unpunished.

A Measure that Tries to Put an End to Honor Killings

The measure that lawmakers passed on Thursday takes matters more seriously. It imposes a prison sentence of 25 years for any killing in the name of honor. Also, the measure no longer allows family members to forgive the killer. Now, relatives can forgive the killer only if the sentence is death. In the event of the family exercising forgiveness, the killer goes to prison instead.

Activists and members of the liberal opposition supported the law. They say it is a step in the right direction. Some said that the law could have gone further and eliminated forgiveness altogether.

The debate on the law was loud even though only a third of the country’s 446 lawmakers attended. Hard-line Islamists mounted the strongest opposition to the law. Conservative Senator Hafiz Hamdullah said that the law was bringing about Western independence for Pakistani women. “They are trying to impose Western culture over here. We will not allow it” he said. “We will impose the law that our holy Quran and Sunnah tradition say”, he added.

Lawmakers held a voice vote and the “yes” vote won. The supporters of the law had spent almost a year in negotiations for it. The many political parties of Pakistan had to come together and support the law, if it was going to have any chance of passing.

Image source: here.