News around the world I – Pakistan – A question of honour or hodood

  • post Type / Young Humanists International
  • Date / 30 September 2008

II) A question of honour or hodood – by Ines John and Silvana Uhlrich

a) Political situation in Pakistan – significant people


Benasir, daughter of the founder of Pakistans People Party (PPP) Sulfikar Ali Bhutto, was at her age of 35 years the first Muslim woman in the modern history on the top of the government. But the power behind the curtain was still in the arms of the army.

2007 was a year of hope, as after the lawyer protest movements against President Pervez Musharraf and the awake of the society, moral and democratic principles could reach out to more importance in this country. For that reason, Benasir Bhutto, leader of the biggest secular party decided to come back to her home country after eight years of voluntary exile. Her killing in the last year was a sign for the still existing problematic and the long-term fight of Pakistan to a secular and secure place. ASIF ALI ZARDARI Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the murdered Benazir Bhutto, was elected on 6th September with a clear majority of 482 to 702 votes of the representatives into the parliament. He is now the successor of Pervez Musharraf, who has leaded the South-Asian country for a period of nine years. His position inside PPP he got through Benazir. But the reputation of Zardari is not faultless: He stayed eleven years in prison due to corruption, force and drug smuggle with legal verdicts.

But the question stays, if Zardari is the right person to solve the problems of the country. Can he increase the economical expension and fight against the unemployment? What about the security in Pakistan? Lots of problems Pakistan has to face nowadays. Problems in Pakistan (1) Political tiredness In spite of showing interest to the leading top in the Pakistan politics, people are busy with other concerns. The prices of basic nutriments and food are increasing to priceless high. Flour as an example became around 90% more expensive in the last year and the government has problems to deliver. The inflation was in July at 24.3%, the highest rate since 30 years. Power cuts disturbing industry and production, the country depends economically on the USA and Saudi-Arabia and the head of Pakistan is almost under water.

The middle class is facing the fear of drowning into poverty. Secondly, people are afraid of the increasing terror. In tribal areas along the Afghanistan border Pakistani Taliban are getting more and more strengthening. Militant Islamic fundamentalists are bringing the war into the cities, people are killed in suicide attempts. (http://www.welt.de/wams_print/article2406693/Bhuttos-langer-Schatten.html) (2) Traditions HUDOOD order The core is the so called Hudood order. They have been installed by the militant dictator in 1979 in combination with the Islamism of Pakistan. Hudood is a symbol of a traditional men based tribal society. These orders decide about claims, especially in cases of rapes and adultery. For example, a woman who has been raped to procure four male Muslim witnesses to support her case. Without four male Muslim witnesses, she could find herself accused of adultery and stoned to death.

A question of honour

In all these cases the body of woman is creating the vessel, wherein the honour of the whole family is preserved. Through adultery the social balance is getting in disorder. This incident allows that the female body can be sold, bought or changed, but only with the decision of the man. If a woman is active neither in reality nor as a rumour, she has to be judged for that. All self protection and defence is without any interest to the case. Each forbidden sexual relation or also a flirt, although it is just an imputation, is seen as a not allowed offence against the family honour, especially against the male family members and they feel entitled to self justice.

The man’s honour is hurt through the recognition of the incident of others and their suspicion on adultery. The question of honour has nothing to do with reality, published Amnesty International in numbers of reports to that topic. Furthermore the rejection of a forced marriage or a divorce proposal can be retaliated with death. In this system the man is seen as the victim, if his wife, sister or daughter stands in accuse. The society expects to see justice from him. Without this act of justice, the lost of honour would be much higher. An “Honour killing” is not a crime, but a deserved retaliation. In less than 10% of honour killings it comes to arrests and convictions. The government of Pervez Musharaf had announced some declarations in this purpose, but nothing more happened. The changing willpower is lacking much more through the Islamic nearness of the government, where the support of women rights is seen as a shame. There are also some voices for a reform in the Islamic family right law of 1961, which admits some basic rights for women. The increasing influence of Islamic fundamentalism in the last 20 years and the spread of the Sharia have a high impact on women destiny.

The hudood orders, which see adultery as crime and judge it with death penalty, did not only make happenings to religious crimes but also gave tribal traditions a platform for exemption from punishment in the widespread case of rapes as the victim has all burden of evidence. The discrimination of women is an offence against the Pakistani constitution and also against the international right, for example against the convention of the UN about the repeal of women discrimination which Pakistan has signed in March 1996. Whoever tries to show power and strength for keeping these rights – equal if these are alliances, humanitarian organisations, press media or individual lawyers – they will be punished with brutal smear campaigns. http://www.nahostpolitik.de/pakistan/pakistan.htm

b) Short cut – honour killings and human rights violence in Pakistan

Artikel › No ‘honour’ in killing

Given the multiple issues facing the Pakistanis, the last thing we surly need is for a legislator to defend a heinous crime in the name of tradition or custom. We don’t need the heinous crime either, in this case the murder of women who were apparently defying their families by trying to marry of their own choice.
The resistance of conservative families to expressions of autonomy by their daughters is an ongoing problem in patriarchal, conservative societies like ours. Some parents accept their children’s wishes. Others submit to the inevitable, cutting off inheritance or refusing to meet them. In Pakistan, some misuse the legal system to gain submission, filing cases of Zina (adultery) against their daughters who elope, preferring to see them tried for a crime punishable by death rather than married to someone ‘unsuitable’. Others resort to physical violence, locking up the erring child without food, cutting off all communication in an effort to gain submission. In the most extreme cases, some family member uses gun, a knife or an axe to end the defiance once and for all- termed a ‘crime of passion’ in much of the world. Here, it is called ‘honour killing’.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recorded over 600 cases of ‘honour’ killings or Karo-Kari last year- just the reported incidents, compiled from reports appearing daily in the media. The actual number may be higher, as not all cases are reported. Is the violence actually rising or is it just that the media is reporting such cases with greater frequency? The media boom is certainly instrumental in bringing more such stories to light. However such cases may also be on the rise because of emerging conflicts within a rapidly modernizing conservative, patriarchal society where women are traditionally seen as family property and the repositories of honour.

Greater exposure to media and more education leads to the heightened awareness of human rights issues. Those who defy the old order have greater support- legal, moral and financial- from various non-governmental organizations. Whether the women were buried alive or whether they were already dead when buried is beside the point. First of all, no one has the right to take another life. Second, the women’s crime (to want to marry of their own choice) was no crime under any law or religion. Third, even if murdering women who disgrace their families is accepted in some areas, not every aggrieved family resort to such action. And fourth but not least, slavery too was once a widely accepted custom. So was the burying alive of baby girls. Neither practice is condoned now, in any way, anywhere in the world.

Ferhan Mazher – Chairman, Rays of Development Organization, Sargodha, Pakistan.
Written by: Ms Beena Sarwar, an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker Forwarded by: Ms Khadijah Shah (Rays of Development Organization)

Sunday, 07 September 2008


c) Current situation – demonstration of youth organisations after the killings of five women

Honour killing Five Pakistani women were beaten, shot and buried alive in the tribal region of Baluchistan on July 13 of this year. The subsequent defence of these ‘honour’ killings from certain members of the Pakistan Senate has shocked the world. The treatment of these women shocked and angered and on top that Senator Israrullah Zehri and Senator Jan Mohammad Jamali stood up in the senate and attempted to justify the murders as “Baluch tradition”. They said that we should not even be discussing Baluch traditions in the senate. Fortunately, they represent a minority mindset. The case has caused a national uproar. These atrocities represent the structural violence against women in Pakistan. The people who are guardians of these systems take any challenge – particularly from women – as a threat. The desire to control women’s lives and their sexuality is far greater in areas where feudal and tribal systems are prevalent. Wherever there is a strong tribal or feudal hold you see that women’s sexuality is strictly controlled by the family – and particularly the male members of the family. Sadly, the people who inflict this violence on women are getting away with it because they are influential and can manipulate the legal system to escape punishment. And they do. It is not the first time that this sort of thing has happened. There have been other cases, equally barbaric, that didn’t receive such attention. Gender inequality is endemic throughout Pakistan, but its manifestation differs between urban and rural areas, and also between social classes.

http://www.stophonourkillings.com/?name=News&file=… “Celebrating the ‘culture’ of burying women alive” … However it is important for us to understand why the male elite in tribal, feudal and sardari cultures is so obsessed with controlling women’s lives and their sexuality. This will help to come up with a more informed and comprehensive response to such incidents. It must be understood that gender and class are the two key organising principles in the social and cultural formation of tribal, feudal and capitalist societies. The dual system of exploitation and oppression works in tandem. The hierarchy in gender relations cuts across class lines and men irrespective of their class position directly benefit from the subordinate status of women. Therefore, when the tribal and feudal lords exercise their absolute power by doling out the most inhuman punishment to protect cultural norms and traditions that help to keep women under the control of men, they get the support of the majority of men and some women who subscribe to masculine thinking from their communities and tribes. By reinforcing and recreating the gender status quo they acquire the legitimacy for their authority and absolute power to maintain other social hierarchies of class and social differences. Since gender inequalities reinforce class formations, it becomes absolutely critical for local power elite to ensure that no threat is posed to the existing gender status quo in their culture.

Finally, it is high time that the government takes concrete steps to abolish the feudal and tribal systems in the country as this creates the structural basis for women’s vulnerabilities and all forms of violence against them. We need to remove structural barriers to gender quality and empower women socially, economically and politically so that they can emerge as a constituency whose interests cannot be dared to be ignored by the political parties and the power elite.

Farzana Bari: acting director of the Centre of Excellence in Gender Studies at Quaid-e-Azam University, university professor and leading human rights activist Sarwar Bari: national coordinator of the Pattan Development Organisation Protests against – raise your voice Youth Organisations demonstrated against ‘honour killings’ KARACHI: Activists of Sindhi Youth Forum, Lyari Friends’ Organisation, Sahar Foundation Trust and Abdur Rehman Baba Academy on Tuesday, 9th September staged a protest rally against killing of five Baloch women, under the garb of honour and tribal sanctity. Participants of the rally comprising some 300 youth walked through Rexer Line, Old Golimar, Sangho Lane and culminated at Gutter Baghicha. They were chanting slogans against the cold blooded murder of women in Balochistan as well as against the practice of honour killing itself which they maintained as a tool to exploit marginalized sections of the society. The participants also carried placards inscribed with slogans against perpetrators of the crime and demand to bring to task the murderers. Sahar Foundation Trust Chairman Iftikhar Ghizali regretted the queer silence of religious leaders against the incident in Balochistan and people involved in the crime. He said those threatening to stage long march and disrupt routine life also appeared to be indifferent towards an extremely serious issue with dire consequence for women-folk of the country. Zarina Baloch of Lyari Friends’ Organization (Women’s Wing) said Balochs are protectors of honour and not its exploiters. “It is the manipulative sardars who have adopted brutal tactics to create scare and maintain their hold on simpleton and hapless individuals,” she commented. The activist took strong exception to inability of women legislators in the decision making bodies, selected on reserved seats, to expose Sardars (tribal chiefs) and feudal lords.


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