Honor Killings in Pakistan

September 21, 1999

Filed at 6:07 p.m. EDT

By The Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Amnesty International charged Tuesday that violence against women in Pakistan is spiraling, saying women are murdered every day for allegedly betraying the honor of their husband or family, Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday.

The human rights group sharply criticized the government for its "systematic failure . . . to prevent, to investigate . . . (and) to punish the perpetrators" of these killings, referred to as honor killings because they are committed to avenge the honor of a husband or a family.

The government, however, says that all murders, regardless of the motive are treated the same.

"We do not say it is honor killings; a killing is a killing," said Pir Ejaz Hashmi, the government's adviser on human rights.

An average of two women each day are killed in Pakistan for betraying the honor of a husband or family, said Shahnaz Bokhari, president of the Progressive Women's Association, who released the Amnesty International report in the Pakistani capital.

``In fact, there is every sign that the number of honor killings is on the rise," said the report.

In Pakistan's eastern Punjab province alone, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said 286 women were killed last year for allegedly bringing shame on their husband or family. The death of a woman is explained away on ``the flimsiest of grounds," the Amnesty report said, citing the case of a man who killed his wife after having a dream that she betrayed him.

A woman can bring shame on her family through allegations of an illicit affair, rape, marrying a man of her choice, or the ``merest rumor of impropriety," said the report.

``The isolation and fear of women living under such threats are compounded by state indifference to and complicity in women's oppression," Amnesty said.

Police seldom file charges against the suspects in honor killings and if they do they rarely conduct investigations, the report says.

"Even when the men are convicted the judiciary ensures that they usually receive a light sentence, reinforcing the view that men can kill their female relatives with virtual impunity," it said.

In a list of recommendations to the Pakistan government, Amnesty called for a review of all laws to ensure equal protection for women, put an end to the common practice of paying a dowry for a bride, and make sure police allow women to report crimes.

Amnesty also recommended sweeping public awareness programs. It also recommended protection for human rights lawyers and activists as well as expanded facilities for victims of domestic violence.

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