Defendant admits sister's 'honour killing' in German trial

Fighting the scourge of honour killing is a constant political struggle against the patriarchal set-up which we (the people of South Asia) inherited from history, said veteran Indian journalist and human rights activist Jatin Desai on Sunday.

He was speaking at the launching ceremony of the book ‘Honour’ and Women’s Rights – South Asian Perspectives’, which was held at the Karachi Press Club.The book is a compilation of 15 research papers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the South Asian Diasporas living in the UK, US and Canada.

It explores the various dimensions of the centuries-old tradition that considers women as symbols of honour and a “bargaining chip” to settle disputes among clans and tribes and is prevalent to this today, notwithstanding the fact that “some major women-friendly bills have been passed at least in Pakistan in the past six years,” said Anis Haroon, chairperson of National Commission on the Status of Women in Pakistan, who was the guest of honour on the occasion.

“The book is a culmination of three years of hard work,” said Manishe Gupte, one of the editors of the book. “It attempts not only to find the hows and whys behind honour killings against women, but it delves deeper and explores the structures and ideologies behind the crime.”

Gupte claimed that South Asian immigrants living in the West today are increasingly reluctant to use the tag of “honour killing” in cases where a girl is murdered by a next-to-kin when she gathers the courage to transgress the “honour code”.

This is because after 9/11 the term has acquired an “oriental and exotic” colour, which is seen from the distorted lens of Islamphobia, whereas the practice is more of a cultural plague that pervades more or less all the communities of this region, irrespective of faith, Gupte said.

“[In the West] if a local kills a woman in the name of honour, it is murder of passion or domestic violence as opposed to honour killing which is almost exclusively used for people from South Asia,” said Gupte who founded MASUM, a centre for women development in Pune in the year 1987 and is also one of the publishers of the compilation with the IDRC.

The practice stems from the feudal-patriarchal mindset, which is very much a part of the social fabric of South Asia to this day, but “laws like Qisas and Diyat, if not encourage, abet the perpetrators of such crimes,” said Afiya Zia, an independent researcher who, with Nazish Brohi, contributed a paper in the compilation, representing the perspective from Pakistan on the issue of honour killing.

“The book does not offer any answers; it raises questions and is more of a thought-provoking analysis of the issue of honur killing, so apart from academicians people who with different communities in this region will find it useful,” said Gupte, about the sort of audience this book will attract. Justice Zahid Aslam Nasir presided over the occasion and provincial minister of information Shazia Marri was also present.

The News International


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