2016-10-07 16:48:00

Pakistan: Activists welcome new law against honour killings

Christian and Muslim activists in Pakistan have welcomed a new law that punishes crimes of honour against women. Thursday, after two years stuck in the National Assembly, the bill was approved. It eliminates the so-called loophole that allowed killers to enjoy impunity due to a legal provision under which a relative of the victim could forgive the perpetrator.

“It is good news and a step in right direction,” Sister Genevieve Ram Lal, national director of the Catholic Women Organization, told AsiaNews. The old law “was a license to kill and people were using this excuse to settle personal grudges”,

The Anti-Honour Killing Laws (Criminal Amendment Bill) 2015 and the Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Amendment Bill) 2015 were both passed by joint sitting of both houses of parliament on Thursday. The legislation imposes Imprisonment for life on “honour” killers even if victim’s family forgives them. Now forgiveness will only spare them the death penalty.

Honour killings are a widespread scourge in Pakistan as men often kill women over alleged offences to the family’s good name. Forgiveness, whereby a family member forgives the murderer, is the cause of the high number of crimes. The murder of Qandeel Baloch, a famous model strangled by her brother for being too free, sped up the law’s approval.

News of her death went viral around the world and triggered a wave of indignation. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s own daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, spoke out openly on women’s rights and pushed for the law’s quick adoption.

According to the latest figures, 94 cases of honour killings were recorded in the first seven months of this year in the province of Punjab alone. According to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), nearly 1,100 women were killed by relatives in Pakistan last year for this reason, and at least 800 tried to kill themselves.

In addition, the Aurat (women) Foundation noted that 432 women were reportedly killed in the name of honour in Pakistan in 2012, 705 in 2011, 557 in 2010, 604 in 2009 and 475 in 2008.

These figures do not include unreported cases or, indeed, the number of men who are often killed alongside women in the name of honour,” said Sumera Saleem, Senior Program Manager at the Aurat Foundation in Lahore. Despite the new law, many doubt that real change can be implemented in Pakistani society in the short term.

For Saleem, “Both government and advocacy groups now have an even bigger responsibility to ensure the implementation of the bill. A strong strategy is needed against serial killing of women which has become a tradition”.

(Source: AsiaNews)

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