Sunday, September 7, 2008

5 Women Buried Alive in Pakistan

The honor killing six weeks ago in Baluchistan province (flag at left) of 3 young women intending to marry men of their choice and 2 older female relatives has sparked widespread protest and a political dispute as to the propriety of the practice. The French human rights group International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reports that the 5 women were kidnapped by several men who beat and shot the young women, then, though they were still breathing, buried them under earth and stones. Because they tried to intervene, the 2 older women were also buried alive (no one seems to know what's happened to the 3 bridegrooms). The kidnappers reportedly drove a vehicle with a provincial government license plate and included a brother of the Baluchistan housing minister, who is a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party (Benazir Bhutto's party). When Yasmeen Shah, an opposition senator, accused the government of ignoring and perhaps covering up the incident (because Baluchistan's support was important for the party in the recent presidential elections that put Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, in power), a senator from the province interrupted her, defending honor killings as a local norm and claiming they should "not be highlighted negatively." While the public outcry has produced governmental support for a Senate resolution condemning the killings and an inquest, the Interior Ministry doesn't seem convinced of the motive: a senior ministry official was quoted as saying he thinks the killings result from a land dispute and expects the inquest to be finished within a week.
In 2004, Pakistan outlawed honor killings, making them a capital crime. But critics warned then that the law was weak and rights groups say that it is ineffective: hundreds of women are killed every year in Pakistan in the name of honor, though few are the killings that are reported or properly investigated. The problem is not limited to Pakistan, of course. The International Campaign Against Honour Killings reports that, like the woman in the photo destined to be stoned to death (photo credit):
"Over 5000 women and girls are killed every year by family members in so-called "honour killings," according to the UN . These crimes occur where cultures believe that a woman's unsanctioned sexual behaviour brings such shame on the family than any female accused or suspected must be murdered. Reasons for these murders can be as trivial as talking to a man, or as innocent as suffering rape."
The phrase "where cultures believe" is misleading, however. For one thing, when people move, cultures move, and migrants have brought so-called honor killings to the United States and countries in Western Europe, where, as we've posted here and here, some judges are having trouble distinguishing between respecting cultural traditions/religious freedom and condoning violence against women. Moreover, as the Magdalene Sisters and perhaps even the upcoming marriage of VP nominee Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter reveal, none of us can be complacent with respect to our own "cultural practices" that punish women for their sexuality.

1 comment:

Nuzrah Jamal said...

Baluchistan does not have a flag of its own. These killings were done at the behest of a member of provincial assembly of Pakistan Peoples Party. Strangely two senators from Baluchistan defended it and said that it was a Baluch tradition. Senator Sanaullah Zehri and Deputy Chairman of the Senator, Mir Jan Jamali have vigorously defended this sordid act.

The PPP government is doing nothing. The police has so far done nothing to arrest the responsible persons. Please note that there is PPP lead government in Baluchistan province.