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Silenced by Violence; The Tragic Reality of Illegal Honor Killings against Women



By Qurat ul ain Ali


“Domestic violence is the front line of the war against women.”
-Pearl Cleage

In a tragic incident that has shaken the community, a 22-year-old woman named Maria was ruthlessly strangled to death by her father and brother in what appears to be a case of honor killing. The brutal crime was captured on video, depicting Maria’s harrowing final moments as she was strangled, while other family members, including her sister-in-law, looked visibly distressed. Video footage obtained by a local news network reveals the unimaginable horror, with Maria’s brother identified as the perpetrator, carrying out the heinous act while a family member stands by. Maria’s brother Shehbaz and sister-in-law disclosed disturbing details about the events preceding her untimely demise. He disclosed that Maria had confided in the family about being a victim of rape. However, instead of finding solace, Maria met a tragic end at the hands of her own kin.

Maria, an unmarried 22 years old young girl, was murdered by her brother and father on the night of the 17th and 18th of March in Chak No. 477 JB Aluwal, within the jurisdiction of Toba Tek Singh Police Station Sadar Toba. As per the Police Station Sadar District Toba Tek Singh Police, on March 24th, they received information that a man named Muhammad Faisal, along with his father Abdul Sattar, had strangled his sister to death. Acting on this information, Ahmed Raza, Sub-Inspector of Sadar Toba, visited the scene, but the accused had fled. Consequently, a case (No. 229/24 dated 24.3.24) was registered under sections 302 TP, 201 TP, and 34 TP. The accused had buried the deceased in the village graveyard. Following the registration of the case, the police apprehended two suspects, with further efforts underway to locate others involved.
According to a police update, the deceased’s grave has been exhumed, and a post-mortem examination has been conducted, while the investigation continues to ensure appropriate legal action is taken. The Sub-Inspector affirmed that the perpetrators of this barbaric act will be brought to justice.
As news of the incident spread, many people took to social media platforms to express their shock and revulsion at the tragic event. The feminist movement Aurat March posted on X, stating,

“A 22-year-old woman, Maria, fell victim to the cruelty of her own brothers and father, who mercilessly strangled her to death with a pillow. This abhorrent crime, committed within the supposed safety of her own home, has deeply shaken our society. It sends shockwaves through our community and demands immediate attention and action from the State of Pakistan… The Women’s March stands in solidarity with the memory of Maria, calling for swift and unwavering justice for her murder.”

It is unfathomable how the state could ignore such blatant injustice. The parallels between the cases of Maria and Qandeel are stark and profoundly disturbing. Both women were silenced by those closest to them and denied their fundamental right to live their lives free from fear and violence. Their deaths lay bare the systemic failures of our society and legal system that are rooted in gender bias, perpetuating a culture of impunity for perpetrators of violence.

This brings to mind a statement made by Asha-Rose Migiro, who once said, “Nowhere in the world is a woman safe from violence. The strengthening of global commitment to counteract this plague is a movement whose time has come.”

Karo-Kari is a form of premeditated honor killing, originating in rural and tribal areas of Sindh, Pakistan. These acts of homicide are primarily perpetrated against women believed to have brought dishonor to their families by engaging in illicit pre-marital or extra-marital relations. Interestingly, Aurat March drew parallels between Maria’s case and that of a prominent figure, stating, “Maria’s story is not an isolated incident; it reminds us of the tragic fate of Qandeel Baloch, whose life was also extinguished at the hands of her brother, Waseem, despite clear evidence against him. Waseem walks free, evading accountability for his heinous crime. Such normalized violence in today’s world is difficult to comprehend, with the majority of reported cases occurring in India and Pakistan. In Pakistan, several laws aim to protect women’s rights and well-being:

1. *Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006*: enhances punishments for crimes against women like acid attacks, honor killings, and domestic violence.

2. **Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act, 2011: criminalizes harmful practices such as forced marriages and depriving women of inheritance.

3. *Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2011*: targets acid attacks with strict penalties and regulates acid sales.

4. *Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010*: Prevents workplace harassment and provides a framework for complaints.

5. *Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act, 1976*: Prohibits dowry, a practice often leading to exploitation.

6. *Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929*: Prohibits underage marriage, crucial for safeguarding young girls.

7. *Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act, 2016*: Provides legal protection and remedies for victims of domestic violence in Punjab.

Despite these laws, challenges persist in their enforcement, and women still face discrimination and violence in Pakistan aimed at protecting women, many still face victimization due to societal, cultural, and systemic factors:

1. *Lack of Awareness*: Women and law enforcement may lack awareness of women’s rights and legal protections.

2. *Weak Implementation*: Laws may not be effectively enforced due to corruption, inefficiency, or biases within the judicial system.

3. *Social Stigma*: Women may fear stigma or retaliation when reporting abuse, hindering them from seeking help.

4. *Patriarchal Norms*: Deep-seated patriarchal attitudes prioritize male authority, perpetuating gender-based violence and discrimination.

5. *Economic Dependence*: Women’s economic dependence on men can prevent them from leaving abusive situations.

6. *Inadequate Support Services*: Limited availability of support services like shelters and legal aid hinders women’s access to help, especially in rural areas.

7. *Political Instability*: Political instability exacerbates challenges for women, increasing the risk of violence and limiting access to justice.

Addressing these issues requires challenging societal norms, improving legal enforcement, enhancing awareness, and providing comprehensive support services for women.

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