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Pakistani women fall prey to cultural tradition of 'honor' killings

ISLAMABAD -- The concept of honor killings, commonly known as Karo-Kari in Pakistan, is part of a cultural tradition prevalent in almost all provinces.

It's a custom that is primarily committed against women who are thought to have brought dishonor to their family by engaging in illicit pre-marital or extra-marital relations.

In order to restore this honor, a family member then kills the female in question in order to revive family honor.

Majority of these victims are females, however, there is a fair amount of men who are murdered in the name of sanctity.

The practice of honor killings has not declined. Even after five years of the law's implementation, people continue refusing to file a report.

“People charged with the law claimed they didn't know about it, even the police, lawyers and judges said that they never knew,” said Anita Weiss, Professor and Head, Department of International Studies University of Oregon at the Karachi Literature Festival that was held last month.

She further said that the people who commit the crime do not consider it a crime because to them it's a religious act merely based on the safeguard of religious deviation.

The reason for this, panelists at the discussion said, is a pervasive culture of violence and a lack of knowledge of women's' rights. A much denied fact remains that domestic violence is not only restricted to the lower class.

An added reason put forward for women being victimized this way is because of their vulnerability or lack of contribution in terms of money. Also, the school of thought that women are a commodity and are “owned” by men, leads to such practices.

Having said that, Weiss added, “Honor killings are only a form of murder and cannot be justified.”

Karo kari or any articulation of it, is considered a private family matter and therefore goes unreported in most cases. A cousin kills another and thus they believe that family matters can be resolved without legal intervention because it's strictly within the family.

“If we speak of the state, come 80's come General Zia ul Haq era, the Shariah or any other law in the name of Islam regards murder as a private offense, which means you can settle it by paying a fine,” said Nafisa Shah, Chairperson of Pakistan's National Commission for Human Development.

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