ISLAMABAD (20 June 2016) – The United Nations (UN) joins people across the country in strongly condemning the increasing number of killings in the so-called name of ‘honour’ and urges the Pakistani Government to prevent such killings and to bring those responsible to justice.
“Every year, hundreds of women and girls are killed in Pakistan to protect family or community ‘honour’” said United Nations Resident Coordinator, Neil Buhne. “But the large numbers and tragic nature of killings over the last weeks highlights the terrible cost from such killings to women, children, families, communities and all of Pakistan, as tragically shown by the Muqaddas Bibi (22) who, was brutally murdered by members of her own family simply because she married a man of her own choice”. According to reports, her father, brother and mother slit the throat of Ms. Muqaddas, who was pregnant with her second child after she married against her family wish, three years ago. Adding to the latest surge in reported ‘honour killings’ in Pakistan are the recent deaths of another pregnant woman and her husband by relatives who disapproved of their marriage, and a young girl shot by her brother for wanting to marry a man of her choice.
Last week Zeenat Rafiq (18) was burned to death by her mother for “bringing shame to the family” by marrying a man of her choice. On 31 May family members tortured and burned alive school teacher Maria Sadaqat (19) for refusing an arranged marriage proposal. Young girls are also affected: on 29 April the body of Ambreen Riasat (16) was found inside a vehicle that had been set on fire after a ‘jirga’ ordered her death for helping her friend marry of her own choice. In one case a man’s throat was slit by relatives of his wife who disapproved of their match – a rare instance of a male victim.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 1,096 women (of whom 170 were minors under the age of 18) were killed for ‘honor’ in 2015. As there are no official figures on ‘honor’ killings the real figure could be much higher, with many such killings believed to be disguised as accidents, or they go unreported by family members.
“Under international and national laws and standards, there is a clear State responsibility to uphold women’s rights and ensure freedom from discrimination, which includes the responsibility to prevent, protect and provide redress – regardless of sex, and regardless of a person’s status in the family,” added Mr. Buhne. “ It is both the State’s and the judiciary’s responsibility to deter such crimes, and ensure that people who commit them are brought to justice. The UN General Assembly, in three separate resolutions in 2001, 2003 and 2005, called on Member States to intensify legislative, educational, social and other efforts to prevent and eliminate “honour”-based crimes, and to investigate thoroughly and prosecute effectively, bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The Government of Pakistan has recognized this, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in February. “Honour killing is a most critical issue and the Government is determined to adopt all possible ways and means to remove this stain from our society” Mr. Buhne said the UN System stands ready to assist the Government of Pakistan to take urgent measures to do this. In this direction, a strengthened and adequately resourced national and provincial Women’s Commissions and Women Development Departments can play a major role.