Women in Pakistan live in fear. They face death by shooting, burning or killing with axes if they are deemed to have brought shame on the family. They are killed for supposed 'illicit' relationships, for marrying men of their choice, for divorcing abusive husbands. They are even murdered by their kin if they are raped as they are thereby deemed to have brought shame on their family. The truth of the suspicion does not matter -- merely the allegation is enough to bring dishonour on the family and therefore justifies the slaying.
The lives of millions of women in Pakistan are circumscribed by traditions which enforce extreme seclusion and submission to men. Male relatives virtually own them and punish contraventions of their proprietary control with violence. For the most part, women bear traditional male control over every aspect of their bodies, speech and behaviour with stoicism, as part of their fate, but exposure to media, the work of women's groups and a greater degree of mobility have seen the beginnings of women's rights awareness seep into the secluded world of women. But if women begin to assert their rights, however tentatively, the response is harsh and immediate: the curve of honour killings has risen parallel to the rise in awareness of rights.
As they have gained exposure to the outside world, women in South Asia have started to realize that the oppressive prison that traditional culture is for them is not the same for women elsewhere. Exposure to the outside world is beginning to challenge and destroy long-held beliefs.
Part of the reaction to this is the rise of reactionary ideologies that seek to preserve and enforce these traditional ways -- and that's what the Taliban is all about.
Every year hundreds of women are known to die as a result of honour killings. Many more cases go unreported and almost all go unpunished. The isolation and fear of women living under such threats are compounded by state indifference to and complicity in women's oppression. Police almost invariably take the man's side in honour killings or domestic murders, and rarely prosecute the killers. Even when the men are convicted, the judiciary ensures that they usually receive a light sentence, reinforcing the view that men can kill their female relatives with virtual impunity. Specific laws hamper redress as they discriminate against women.
The isolation of women is completed by the almost total absence of anywhere to hide. There are few women's shelters, and any woman attempting to travel on her own is a target for abuse by police, strangers or male relatives hunting for her. For some women suicide appears the only means of escape.
Is this Islamic, though?
From Honor Killings Plague Pakistan by Aamir Latif, IOL (IOL = Islam OnLine) Correspondent, January 11, 2007:
KARACHI — Hooran, another victim of the cancer custom of honor killing, known locally as Karo-Kari, exudes a mix of fear and hopelessness in her broad brown eyes despite the fact that she defeated a sure death.
"I and my parents begged them, but they didn't listen to us," a pale and week Hooran, 14, told IslamOnline.net from her hospital bed at a local hospital in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi.
"They (her cousins) looked happy and proud. We were crying, and begging for mercy, when they pointed their pistols at me," she recalled fighting back the tears.
"They fired at me and I fell down. The only thing I remember was the screams of my mother."
Hooran was abducted by her cousins, who suspected she had had illicit relations with Ghulam Ahmad, on November 24 from Malir, a suburban area near Karachi, along with her father and mother.
The cousins shot at Hooran in front of her parents, who begged for the life of their child who was soaked in her own blood.
But the real cousins had no mercy for her. They threw the "body" of Hooran in a crater and drove off with the wailing couple.
The next day, a passerby saw the 14-year-old girl lying unconscious and immediately informed the nearby police check post.
Breaking the tradition, the local police acted swiftly and rushed her to a local hospital in precarious condition with five bullets in her belly, arm and legs.
Doctors had little hopes for her survival, as she was almost dead. But miracles do happen, and she came out of the clutches of death.
Karo-Kari is a compound word literally meaning "black male" and "black female," metaphoric terms for adulterer and adulteress.
Being so labeled leads more often than not to the murder of both man and woman allegedly guilty of having an illicit affair.
This is especially true in the rural areas of the southern province of Sindh.
Hooran hails from Larkana district of Sindh province, the hometown of former premier Benazir Bhutto.
Her father, a farmer, moved the family to Karachi a few months back after her cousins tried to kill her on the pretext of Karo-Kari.
They had already killed the alleged Karo a few months back.
To save their daughter's life, the parents immediately shifted to Karachi but the hunters did not leave her.
Hooran said she along with her parents and the relatives who provided them shelter in a car at Super Highway when all of a sudden a car cut them off the road.
Two armed men, who later appeared to be her cousins, alighted the car.
They left the family that had provided shelter to Hooran and her parents and took them away.
Hooran denies that she ever had an affair with slain Ghulam Ahmad.
"I even didn't know him. Actually, one of my cousins wanted to marry me, and he had asked my parents for that, but they refused," she recalled.
"Following my parents' refusal, my cousins blamed me for having relations with Ghulam Ahmad, whom I had never seen," Hooran insisted.
"My and my parents' lives are still in danger. I don't know how and where my parents are and whether they are or alive?"
The phenomenon of "honor killings" is abused, even according to the perverted rules that justify such murders. They are used to intimidate women into marrying undesireable men, under threat that the woman will be accused of a crime and murdered if she does not agree. In domestic life, if you are married to a woman you don't like, and lust after your neighbor's wife, you can accuse your wife and your neighbor of having an affair. You then kill your wife and your neighbor, and keep your neighbor's widow, all as payment to defend the dishonor you allege was done to you.
This really happens, and we will hear of examples.
Continuing with Honor Killings Plague Pakistan:
Hooran is one of the few victims of honor killings who managed to survive to narrate their stories.
The graveyards of Upper Sindh districts are filled with the graves of those innocents men and women who have been killed in the name of so-called honor.
"There is no mention of honor killing in the Qur'an or Hadiths," Professor Hassamuddin Mansoori, Chairman of the Shari`ah Department in the University of Karachi, told IOL.
"Honor killing, in Islamic definitions, refers specifically to extra-legal punishment by the family against the woman and is forbidden by Shari`ah," he averred.
"Islam strictly prohibits murder and killing without legal justification," said the expert.
"The so-called honor killing is based on ignorance and disregard of morals and laws."
Some 40 Pakistani religious scholars belonging to different schools of thought have recently issued a joint fatwa against honor killings.
They branded the heinous custom un-Islamic and devoid of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
According to official statistics in 2006, as many as 1,261 women were murdered in the name of honor killings in Pakistan.
Official data presented in the country's Upper House Senate shows that more than 4,000 people were killed during last 6 years in the name of honor killings.
Of the victims almost 2,774 were women and 1.226 were men which means twice as many women lose their lives to this ugly social custom.
But unofficial statistics suggest that the number of victims is much higher because most the cases are not reported to police since close family members, including brothers, fathers and husbands might be involved.
The data shows that the highest number of honor killings were perpetrated in Punjab province followed by Sindh, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and the south-western province of Baluchistan.
As I pointed out in Part 1, though, Islam is in the eyes of the beholder, and there are too many people in the Islamic world who believe that honor killings are Islamic -- and these are usually the kind of people who spread their belief system at gunpoint, murdering infidels and those Muslims who, like the women in these stories, are not properly Islamic enough.