ucanews.com reporter, KarachiUpdated: February 17, 2016 09:47 AM GMT
Pakistani relatives transport the body of a pregnant 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 May 27, 2014 photo. Farzana Parveen, 25, was attacked outside Lahore's grand high court building by more than two dozen brick-wielding attackers including her brother and father. (Photo by AFP)
Church leaders and women rights activists have welcomed a statement by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to toughen laws to end the widespread practice of honor killings.
Honor killing, also known as karo kari, 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.
"Honor killing is a most critical issue and my government is determined to adopt all possible ways and means for removing this stain from our society," Sharif said.
"All those concerned have already been directed for plugging the loopholes in existing laws … in order to eliminate honor killings from Pakistan," he said.
"Social evils can be overcome through an effective partnership between the government and civil society," he said.
The prime minister made this commitment in a meeting with Oscar-winning Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, whose documentary A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness highlighting the issue of honor killing, was nominated for an Academy Award.
Civil society and church leaders have welcomed the statement.
"We had been demanding strict laws and a stricter implementation against this tribal practice. The church condemns killing of any kind," Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad told ucanews.com.
Father Joseph Louis, executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan, said honor killing is a very dangerous dilemma in Pakistan.
"In many cases, even if parents ultimately accept love marriages victims' brothers do not stop until they kill her to restore the so-called family honor," he said.
Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recorded that 923 women and 82 minor girls fell victim to "honor" killings in 2014.
The predominant cause of these killings was an alleged illicit affair, where both the man and woman were murdered as a result, it said.
One of the most brutal incidents of honor killings in 2014 was witnessed in Lahore, where a pregnant 25-year-old woman was bludgeoned to death by her family outside the Lahore High Court. The victim's father, brother and two cousins were sentenced to death for their role in the killing.
The killing sparked international outrage.
According to the Aurat Foundation, a women rights group, more than 3,000 honor killings have been carried out since 2008 in Pakistan.