Last week, the Supreme Court (SC) passed a landmark judgement wherein it has stated that the word ‘ghariat’ - honour, must not be used to describe the killing of women or in murder cases as it is 'never honourable and should not be described as such'.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Isa had taken up the jail appeal of Mohamamd Abbas against the Sept 8, 2015 verdict of the Lahore High Court in the murder case of his wife, Saima Bibi. While ruling on this domestic honour killing case, Justice Qazi Faez Isa questioned the translation of the word itself, and said that “ghariat” translates closer to “arrogance” than it does to honour. By claiming that murder is committed on the pretext of honour, the “murderer hopes to provide justification for the crime… this is unfortunate, more so because there is no honour in such killings.” He explained that killings may be deterred “if the term ghariat is not used to describe them”.
Justice Qasi Faez observed that not enough was being done to stop these crimes against women. He stated that honour killings are far too rampant in Pakistan, and that the “Parliament was rightly concerned with the prevalence of such killings and enacted legislation to dissuade, if not stop such crimes.” According to the SC, Pakistan has the highest rate of honour killing per capita and that the victims are predominantly women.
Just this Saturday, Shaheena Shaheen, a talk show host at state-owned broadcaster Pakistan Television and editor of a local magazine, was shot dead at her home in Turbat. Shaheena’s family suspected her husband of the alleged honour killing. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, since 1992, at least 61 Pakistani journalists have been killed in connection with their work. In November, another man was accused of killing his journalist wife, Arooj Iqbal, in the eastern city of Lahore.
The nationwide debate over honour killings was sparked due to Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch's murder by her brother. Although 4 years ago, a mandatory 25 year prison sentence was issued for anyone convicted of an honour killing, this has sparked little change. Due to set patriarchal norms and endemic corruption, police often refuse to take the word of a woman over a man.
Although law formally forbids the practice of honor killings, it is encouraged and tolerated by many citizens in Pakistan on the basis of Islamic and familial justification. Individuals aren’t controlled by their norms and surroundings, they create and propagate them. Therefore, in order for a real difference to be seen, citizens must work to discourage male-domination and raise female voices.