After multiple women were murdered under the guise of “honor killing,” Pakistan has amended its laws that previously allowed the murderer to walk free. However, the revision is still weak, says experts who insist that the country must completely do away with the archaic practice of allowing family members to have a say in the legal proceedings.
Pakistan’s parliament unanimously passed legislation against “honor killings” on Thursday. Essentially, the law has closed a rather weak and often exploited loophole that allowed the killers to walk free. The previous version of the law specifically offered a provision which allowed the family members of the perpetrator and the victim to “pardon” the killer. This allowed a murderer to walk free, despite openly admitting to the crime or being proven guilty. Though the loophole has been shuttered, family members still get a say in the legal proceedings, and can effectively prevent the murderer from being sentenced to death.
Previously, the murderer had to merely seek forgiveness for his crime from the relatives. Pakistan witnesses several murders, especially of females, under the pretext of honor killing. The killer is almost always a family member. Unfortunately, the practice of honor killing is still practiced commonly in Pakistan. A majority of the girls are murdered for falling in love with a person whom her family doesn’t approve of, or gets pregnant out of wedlock.
Shockingly, honor killing is rarely viewed as a crime in Pakistan. Instead, family members consider the killer to be a vigilant person who has managed to avoid bringing shame to the family. Hence, more often than not, he swiftly secures a pardon and walks free. Moreover, the person is celebrated for his brutal act. While actual statistics are hard to come by, experts indicate more than 95 percent of honor killing cases never reach conviction since killers secure a full pardon from the family.
Under the new law, the person accused or proven guilty of honor killing, won’t be allowed a full pardon. However, the family members can still save the killer from death row. Legally, the family members can still “forgive” the killer, but the murderer would still face a mandatory sentence of 25 years if convicted of the crime. Additionally, the law has been strengthened by mandating DNA testing, reported CNN.
Needless to say, Pakistan’s honor killing law still remains very weak and open to exploitation, say experts. But it sends a clear message to the community, said Sen. Sughra Imam of the Pakistan People’s Party, which sponsored the bill.
“With the passage of the law people will know that it is not okay to kill with impunity and that they are punishable for their actions like in any other murder case. No law will eradicate a crime entirely but the law should be a deterrent. Laws are supposed to guide better behavior, not allow destructive behavior to continue with impunity.”
The amendment comes about three months after an outspoken social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch, was drugged and choked to death by her own brother. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, there were just 1,276 confirmed incidents between February, 2014, and February, 2016. Unfortunately, official numbers never reveal the enormity of the problem. Many honor killing incidents are never reported due to the cultural acceptance of the crime. Other reasons include general apathy, and a dysfunctional judicial system.
Violence against women is still a chronic problem in countries like Pakistan. Not just the girl, but oftentimes, even her boyfriend and sometimes the boy’s family as well, is lynched. Perpetrators often hang the bodies in public places, proudly reminding others of their barbaric acts. In order to truly stop females from being murdered under the name of honor killing, the judiciary will have to take some concrete steps, say researchers.
[Featured Image by Asif Hassan/Getty Images]