Annihilation of Women Goes On (26 November 2000)
By Fariha Razak Haroon
Honour killing is blatantly being practised in the name of Islam with no relief available for the aggrieved women.
On March 2, 2000, 14-year-old Rahima got married. She was wedded to Niazul Mugheri (28) in a colourful ceremony in Sujawal Junejo village near Larkana. Attired in traditional red, she waited nervously for the bridegroom for what was supposed to be the beginning of a new life with him.
A little while after going into the bedroom, the groom came out and announced that his wife had confessed to having a sexual relationship with somebody else. The whole family immediately held a discussion and the punishment was decided. She had to be killed. The groom's eldest brother fired the first shot, then two of his other brothers, and then he himself. Soon the young bride lay covered in a pool of blood. The red matching that of her dress.
The news spread fast. It was only when the tragedy came to the knowledge of human rights activists that the incident was reported in the press, and the police subsequently took notice of it. The groom managed to escape, but was later arrested. The bride's mother could not believe that the girl who had just left her home in a bridal dress was being buried. The girl's father, Bahram, told the police, "Rahima was killed because the groom had an enmity with the man he accused of having an illicit relationship with my daughter."
The 21-year-old, who was accused as being the girl's lover, fled for his life as according to karo kari tradition he was penalized to death.
This is just one of the recent cases. Nameless, faceless women, who cannot speak for themselves, bound in chains of oppression, have similar stories to tell.
In 1944, Quaid-i-Azam told a gathering at Aligarh University: "No nation can rise to the heart of its glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are victims of evil customs and practices. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable conditions in which our womenfolk have to live. You should take your women along with you as comrades in every sphere of life."
Despite his sayings and the teachings of Islam, women in our society are discriminated against. The so-called family honour is there at the cost of women's lives. Honour killing is blatantly being practised in the name of Islam with no recourse for the aggrieved women.
The tribal tradition of Karo Kari is contrary to what Islam preaches. In 1998, 475 people were killed under this custom. Among them were 318 women, while the rest were men. More than 70 per cent of the victims were under the age of 25, and about 100 of the women were unmarried. The year 1999 presented an even worse scenario with 500 people killed in the name of honour. In the year 2000, 345 people have so far been killed under Karo Kari. Despite the government's announcement of treating Karo Kari as a murder, such incidents are on the rise.
This is not the case just in Pakistan, but the practice continues in other countries as well. A number of Muslim countries do punish such killers, but the sentences are so light that they make a mockery of justice. In Jordan where one in four homicides is an honour killing, men serve only three to 12 months in jail as punishment.
Women in many countries are fighting to change the laws. In Israel, Jewish and Arab women jointly run an underground railroad to rescue Muslim women targeted by their families for death. In Jordan, female activists are working to persuade the parliament and the king to ban ancient laws that protect honour killings.
Preference for a boy is prevalent in most of the developing countries where failure to produce a male heir can result in divorce or men taking on second wives.
In India, even the villages have ultrasound machines to determine the sex of the fetus. Females are habitually aborted.
According to Edhi Foundation in Karachi, 99 per cent of all murdered babies in the city are girls. While in China women are forced to have abortions, in Nepal the situation is reverse. Women there are jailed for having an abortion. An estimated two-thirds of women in Nepalese jails are there for garbhabat, destruction of life, an offence applied equally to abortion, infanticide, and child abandonment.