Honor Killing of Women in Sindh and Southern Punjab

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2.1     International commitments

Pakistan is a signatory to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which defines discrimination against women as any “distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on the basis of equality between men and women, of human rights or fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” (CEDAW, Article 1). The Convention obliges states to “modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women” to eliminate prejudice and discriminatory traditions. (CEDAW, Article 5)[8].

The United Nations General Assembly in 1993 adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women which urges states not to “invoke custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligation” to eliminate discriminatory treatment of women.

2.2     National Legislation/ policies

Government of Pakistan has taken significant steps to lay down a national legal and policy framework to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender, in line with its international commitments.

The Constitution of Pakistan of 1973 (Articles 8 to Article 28) guarantees fundamental rights of all citizens of Pakistan, women as well as men. However, some cultural biases steeped in local traditions and aberrant legislature have truncated these fundamental rights of women.

In Pakistan, the laws pertaining to honor killing are the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979; the Qisas and Diyat Ordinances, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2004 and the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill, 2006. The Hudood Ordinance introduced by General Zia-ul-Haq in 1979, criminalizes the act of Zina prescribing the adulterer ‘be stoned to death at a public place’ (Hudood Ordinance 1979, 5) and the fornicator ‘be punished at a public place with whipping numbering one hundred stripes’ (Hudood Ordinance 1979, 5)[9]. Interestingly, the law stipulates less harsh punishment for those who fornicate, the case in most instances of honor crimes, but which is a clear deviation form the practice of honor killings. This law severely curtailed women’s rights who gravely suffered because of flawed enforcement system. The Protection of Women Bill (2006) has taken the edge off the Hudood Ordinance. It excluded several provisions of this Ordinance, re-introducing them into Pakistan Penal Code. The Act provided 30 important amendments in the Zina and Qazf Ordinance Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the ‘Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939.[10]

Qisas (retribution) and Diyat (compensation) laws were also formulated in 1980 as part of Zia’s Islamization drive. Qisas means “punishment by causing similar hurt at the same part of the body of the convict as he has caused to the victim or by causing his death if he has committed qatl-i-amd in exercise of the right of the victim or a wali” (Pakistani Penal Code 1860, 111-299) while Diyat means “the compensation specified in Section 323 payable to the heirs of the victim” (Pakistani Penal Code1860, 111-299). Qisas and Diyat can be invoked by the convicted in case of a pre-meditated murder. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2004 amended the existing law to consider honor killing as pre-meditated murder and made it punishable as such.

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The first ever National Policy for Development and Empowerment of Women (NPDEW)[11] was formulated by the government of Pakistan in 2002. The policy provides guidelines to reflect gender perspective in all national policies and plans of the government. The policy aims to “safeguard & ensure the protection of women’s human rights including economic, legal, political & social rights, especially the rights of minority women, rural & poor women, girls &women with disabilities, elderly women &women in vulnerable circumstances and situations”. The policy document, inter alia, proposed ‘adopting a zero tolerance policy regarding violence against women’ and ‘declaring “honour killings” as murder’ (Section 4.4 of NPDEW);

The genesis of legislation to criminalize honor-based crimes can be traced back to 1999 when Pakistan’s Senate rejected a resolution condemning “honour” killings in the country, resulting in international uproar[12]. A year later, former President General Pervez Musharraf pledged to take strong measures to curb honour killings saying that such acts neither found any place in Islam nor in the law. In 2004, the government passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, also known as ‘Honor Killing Act’ and in 2006 the Women’s Protection Bill (WPB). The WPB has been mentioned earlier while the 2004 ‘Honor Killing Act’ is discussed below;

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