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Pakistan parliament passes bills to fight so-called honor killings

Church leaders welcomed two new bills to help end the rape and murder of women

Pakistan parliament passes bills to fight so-called honor killings

Pakistani human rights activists hold placards during a protest in Islamabad against the killing of a woman who was beaten to death with bricks by members of her own family for marrying a man of her own choice in Lahore, in this file photo. (Photo by AFP) reporter, Lahore

October 14, 2016

Church leaders and rights activists in Pakistan have welcomed the Pakistan parliament's unanimous decision to pass legislation to curb rape and so-called "honor killings." 

The Joint Sitting of the Pakistani Parliament unanimously passed two bills aimed at preventing the killing of women in the name of family honor and addressing gaps in existing legislation to improve conviction rates for such crimes. 

The proposed legislation on "honor killings" will make punishments for these offences harsher than in ordinary murder cases.

Those convicted of "honor killings" will have to face 25 years to life imprisonment even if the heirs of the victim reach an agreement with the convict and grant amnesty. 

Under the existing law, a convicted murderer can walk free if they are pardoned by the legal heirs, a clause opposed by women activists.

Pakistan’s body of religious clerics have denounced the bill as un-Islamic, but their objections were rejected by the parliament.

In the anti-rape bill, a provision to conduct DNA tests on both the victim and perpetrator have been added for the first time. Rape of minors, as well as the mentally and physically ill, will become punishable by death.

Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the Pakistani Bishops' Justice and Peace Commission welcomed the anti-honor killing bill.

"Finally the government has taken a serious action against this practice. Now we need a stricter implementation of the new laws so that people do not get away with killing women," he said.

"Passing a bill will not matter unless stronger measures are taken to stop this menace. We don’t support death penalties and hope the punishment of a life sentence will eradicate violence against women and girls," he added.

According to a report by the Center for Social Justice, a Lahore based Christian NGO, the vast majority of crimes against women and girls occur in remote rural areas with poor police and press coverage.

"Over a decade ago, following an Amnesty International report on 'honor killings' in Pakistan, a UN agency disclosed that half the entire world’s recorded 'honor killings' are reported in Pakistan," the report said.

According to official figures released by the Ministry of Human Rights, 8,648 incidents of human rights violations were reported in Pakistan between 2012 and  2015. These included 860 incidents of "honor killings," 344 of cases rape/gang rape and 268 incidents of sexual assault/harassment.

Another similar report, released by War Against Rape in 2015, stated that four women were raped every day in Pakistan in 2014, a 49 percent increase in the number of cases as compared to 2013.

"I hope the new bill truly provides relief to women who have long been victimized. Nobody has the right to kill anyone especially women in their families. It is about time people change the way the perceive women folk. Still a lot needs to be done," said Alice R. Garrick, executive director of the Women Development and Service Society in Raiwind, a Church of Pakistan diocese.

The so-called "honor killing" is the intentional murder of a family member for bringing shame to the family by having an illicit affair or refusing an arranged marriage. Hundreds of women are killed by their family every year in Pakistan in the name of honor. 

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