Coming out of the dark ages

Contrary to popular belief, honour killings aren’t only a problem in Pakistan. Take for example the 2011 case of a 20-year-old man in Italy who was murdered by his brother for coming out as gay and ‘bringing shame’ upon the family. According to statistics from the UN, one in five cases of honour killing every year happens in India. In fact, several high profile cases in India, South East Asia, and the Middle East reveal that honour killings have cultural and historical roots that persist in anachronistic, nostalgia-laden societies, and are not limited by ethnic or religious boundaries. That said, it is incontrovertible that South Asia and South Asian communities around the world are endemically prone to honour killings. A report compiled by Dr. Muazzam Nasrullah and released during a seminar at the University of Health Sciences, Lahore, details how more than 500 women and girls are victims of honour killings every year in Pakistan, and that number only counts reported cases. Dr. Nasrullah asserted that his estimate is low and statistical derivation points to a higher number.
While we may express outrage over reports of honour killing, the question remains of whether enough is done to overcome the social and emotional structures that facilitate the act. Looking at countries where honour killings are a routine occurrence, the overwhelming conclusion is that societies that remain stuck in the past tend to be more prone to barbaric actions that also belong in the hoary past. Governments are usually hesitant to legislate with regard to domestic violence or issues affecting home life. The unstated logic is that domestic issues invariably depend on one person’s word against the other. In Pakistan, however, while the state is legally empowered to regulate the private lives of individuals through laws like the Hudood Ordinances — which impose penalties on sexual relationships outside marriage — successive governments have pussyfooted around enacting legislation that might prevent honour killings, or impose stricter penalties on violators, in part because of the expected backlash from right-wing religious parties who often see women as socially subordinate to men. The JUI-F was strongly against a 2009 bill on domestic violence that they said contained ‘western’ values, and which female legislators believe is now a pipedream. The passage of laws protecting women from domestic violence and honour killings is an important part of changing how societies view themselves. Over the course of years, the cumulative effects of legislation can amend social structures that codify brutal punishments for private acts. Legislation in this regard is one side of social activism needed to bring Pakistani society out of the dark ages with regard to women.

A link to the article can be found here.