By Mayank Jain:
When we all sit back and enjoy ‘rape’ jokes and poke fun at those who fight for feminism around the world by calling them armchair activists with nothing better do other than disrupt the course of ourÂ ‘society’, we don’t realize the consequences of our apathy. We don’t realize the struggle that people around the world go through because of stereotypes and gender violence. CountriesÂ like Pakistan become testimony to multiple killings of young couples and in most cases, only females. The reason behind these killings is to avenge the loss of ‘honour’ that the person in consideration has lost by acting on his/her wishes by choosing to marry someone, as if killing one is an honourable action in itself.
Killing to bring back honour
The latest case is the “honour killing” of Muafia Bibi, 17, and her 30-year-old husband, Sajjad Ahmed in a village in the Punjab province. Their fault was marrying without the consent of their families. The suspects areÂ from the family itself: Bibi’s parents, grandfather and two uncles, who have been arrested. They allegedly killed the couple with a butcher knife.
As Vice News reports, “The couple were not beheaded but were killed with knives and had severe signs of torture on their heads.”Â Local children were made to watch the killing so that they don’t make the same ‘mistake’ in their lives and live with the so called honour and consent of their families.
Pride and prejudice of the perpetrators
It hasn’t been long since the brutal and horrific murder of a 25-years-old pregnant woman by her own family came to light. Her family was displeased because she married a man of her choice and her brothers were the first ones to start pelting stones at her outside aÂ Pakistani high court. Her father was seemingly too proud of the act and he proclaimed this new-found ‘honour’ in the open, “I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it”.
Religious doctrines and patriarchal ‘morals’ dictated her fate and she ended up dead for just doing what she wanted to. The horror of such acts can never be captured in statistics but Pakistan accounted for almost 20% of the honour killings in the world in 2013. According to International Honour Based Resource Center, almost 5,000 people die in ‘honour killings’ around the world. Pakistan’s last year’s tally of almost 900 killings is a shameful reality for the country.
Government’s leniency and abetment
When UN adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women in 1993, it was hoped that Pakistan government will follow the lead and not invoke customs or traditions in such cases and eliminate these killings. However, the government has clearly failed to take up a firm stand against the issue. Also, effectiveness of a law enacted in 2004 that made honour killings punishable by a prison term of seven years, or by aÂ death penalty in the most extreme cases, remains questionable as the personal value systems of those in the judicial process comes in the equation.
Human rights activists and other NGOs have been at the forefront of this struggle in the region but the silence of religious fundamentalists who condone the killings is unfortunate. Most of the honour killings are shown asÂ instances of suicides or death by accidents which compresses the numbers a lot and the government shows no initiative to go out and collect the numbers on its own. On the other hand, ‘shame’ becomes an obstacle for the family to report such crimes committed by their own kin and they become a party to the mass cultivation of a similar thought process.
Long walk to freedom
Children are corrupted with stigma from their very childhood and they grow up to be fearful citizens who live in the presence of a repressive state which runs more on religion than on the principles of freedom and equality. This is probably why Pakistan’s human development is at all-time low as those who dare to do as they please aren’t allowed to survive.
Pakistan is a troubled state and most of the troubles stem from the religious fundamentalism that haunts as a ghost. It never fails to cast its shadow upon any and every progressive effort by the country to come out of a ‘religious coma’ and match the pace with which the world around it has moved on to dodge dogma and embrace rationality.
It is time for the civil societies around the world to wake up on their own and intervene rather than wait for a lax government and equally stubborn clerics to change the course of the country which eagerly waits for its own renaissance.
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