Government of Pakistan: request of immediate action to be taken against "honour" killings
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In 1999 Amnesty International strongly requested to the Government of Pakistan to take 1) legal, 2) preventive, and 3) protective measures against honour killings.
The measures taken in these past 14 years to prevent and/or punish honour killings have proven far too inadequate, a whitewash in most cases, being that often the perpetrators of these killings are members of the family victim's.
After the latest honour killings brought to global attention during February 2013, we ask once again to the Government of Pakistan to take urgent and immediate measures in the above mentioned three areas, in fulfilment of its obligation to provide effective protection to women and men against violence perpetrated in the name of honour and to end the impunity currently enjoyed by its perpetrators.
1. Legal measures
• Undertake a review of criminal laws to ensure equal protection of law to women.
• Adopt legislation which makes domestic violence in all its manifestations a criminal offence. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women developed a framework for model legislation on domestic violence which Amnesty International recommended in 1999 to be used when drafting legislation against such crimes.
• Make the sale of women and girls, the giving of women in marriage against financial consideration and as a form of compensation in lieu of a fine or imprisonment a criminal offence.
• Provide women victims of violence with access to the mechanisms of justice and to just and effective remedies for the harm they have suffered.
• Ensure that the provincial home departments, commissioners, deputy commissioners and senior police staff take notice of all reports of honour killings and ensure that every single case is investigated and brought to prosecution.
• Abolish the death penalty and commute all death sentences.
2. Preventive measures
• Undertake wide-ranging public awareness programs through the media, the education system and public announcements to inform both men and women of women’s equal rights.
• In particular, provide gender-sensitization training to law enforcement and judicial personnel to enable them to impartially address complaints of violence in the name of honour.
• Ensure that data and statistics are collected in a manner that makes the problem visible.
3. Protective measures
• Ensure that activists, lawyers and women’s groups can pursue their legitimate activities without harassment or fear for their safety by providing adequate police protection and pursue all such threats with a view to punishment.
• Expand victim support services provided by the state or non-governmental organizations; they should be run as places of voluntary recourse for women and their purpose should be only protective; they should be available all over the country, adequately resourced, and linked to legal aid, vocational training and with adequate provisions for children.
Few information about this issue
An honour killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonour upon the family or community.
The perceived dishonour is normally the result of one of the following behaviours, or the suspicion of such behaviours: dressing in a manner unacceptable to the family or community, wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice, especially if to a member of a social group deemed inappropriate, engaging in heterosexual acts outside marriage and engaging in homosexual acts.
In Pakistan honour killings are known locally as karo-kari.
An Amnesty International report noted "the failure of the authorities to prevent these killings by investigating and punishing the perpetrators."
In 2005 the average annual number of honour killings for the whole nation was stated to be more than 10,000 per year.
Recent cases include that of three teenage girls who were buried alive after refusing arranged marriages.
The United Nations estimate for the number of honour killings in the world is 5000. Many women's groups in the Middle East and South West Asia suspect that more than 20,000 women are honour killed in the world each year.
Legislation on this issues varies, but today the vast majority of countries no longer allow a husband to legally kill a wife for adultery (although adultery itself continues to be punishable by death in some countries) or to commit other forms of honour killings. However, in many places, adultery and other "immoral" sexual behaviours by female family members can be considered mitigating circumstances in case when they are killed, leading to significantly shorter sentences.
Various laws that allow full or partial defences, or otherwise are interpreted to create the possibility of shorter sentences include:
Pakistan: honour killings are supposed to be prosecuted under ordinary killing, but in practice police and prosecutors often ignore it.
The Hudood Ordinances of Pakistan, enacted in 1979 by then ruler General Zia-ul-Haq, created laws that realigned Pakistani rule with Islamic law. The law had the effect of reducing the legal protections for women, especially regarding sex outside of the marriage. Women who made accusations of rape, after this law, were required to provide four male witnesses. If unable to do this, the alleged rape could not be prosecuted in the courts. Because the woman had admitted to sex outside of marriage, however, she could be punished for having sex outside of the marriage, a punishment that ranged from stoning to public lashing. This law made it that much more risky for women to come forward with accusations of rape.
In 2006, the Women's Protection Bill amended these Hudood Ordinances by removing four male witnesses as a requirement for rape allegations.
On December 8, 2004, under international and domestic pressure, Pakistan enacted a law that made honour killings punishable by a prison term of seven years, or by the death penalty in the most extreme cases. Women's rights organizations were, however, wary of this law as it stops short of outlawing the practice of allowing killers to buy their freedom by paying compensation to the victim's relatives.
Women's rights groups claimed that in most cases it is the victim's immediate relatives who are the killers, so inherently the new law is just whitewash. It did not alter the provisions whereby the accused could negotiate pardon with the victim's family under the Islamic provisions. In March 2005, the Pakistani parliament rejected a bill which sought to strengthen the law against the practice of honor killing. However, the bill was brought up again, and in November 2006, it passed.
Haiti: article 269 of the penal code states "in the case of adultery as provided for in Article 284, the murder by a husband of his wife and/or her partner, immediately upon discovering them in "flagrante delicto" in the conjugal abode, is to be pardoned."
Jordan: part of article 340 of the Penal Code states that "he who discovers his wife or one of his female relatives committing adultery and kills, wounds, or injures one of them, is exempted from any penalty."
This has twice been put forward for cancellation by the government, but was retained by the Lower House of the Parliament, in 2003: a year in which at least seven honour killings took place. Article 98 of the Penal Code is often cited alongside Article 340 in cases of honour killings. "Article 98 stipulates that a reduced sentence is applied to a person who kills another person in a 'fit of fury'".
Morocco: Revisions to Morocco's criminal code in 2003 helped improve women's legal status by eliminating unequal sentencing in adultery cases. Article 418 of the penal code granted extenuating circumstances to a husband who kills, injures, or beats his wife or her partner, or both, when catching them in "flagrante delicto" while committing adultery. While this article has not been repealed, the penalty for committing this crime is at least now the same for both genders.
Brazil: an explicit defence to murder in case of adultery has never been part of the criminal code, but a defence of "honour" (not part of the criminal code) has been widely used by lawyers in such cases to obtain acquittals.
Although this defence has been generally rejected in modern parts of the country (such as big cities) since the 1950s, it has been very successful in the interior of the country.
In 1991 Brazil’s Supreme Court explicitly rejected the “honour” defence as having no basis in Brazilian law.
There are other countries where honour killing is not legal but is known to occur and be lightly punished; these countries include:
Syria: Article 548 states that "He who catches his wife or one of his ascendants, descendants or sister committing adultery (flagrante delicto) or illegitimate sexual acts with another and he killed or injured one or both of them benefits from a reduced penalty, that should not be less than 2 years in prison in case of a killing."
Article 192 states that a judge may opt for reduced punishments (such as short-term imprisonment) if the killing was done with an honourable intent.
In addition to this, Article 242 says that a judge may reduce a sentence for murders that were done in rage and caused by an illegal act committed by the victim.
Italy: Article 133 and 62 of the Italian Penal Code offer the possibility of reduced sentencing and punishment for crimes that occur within the offender's cultural norms. In the case of honour killings and other honour related crimes, these articles could possibly allow for honour killing offenders to ask a reduced punishment.
Italian Parliament member Souad Sbai suggested in 2010 that Italy amend these articles so that honour killings do not have extra protection under Italian law.
Egypt: a number of studies on honour crimes by The Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, includes one which reports on Egypt's legal system, noting a gender bias in favour of men in general, and notably article 17 of the Penal Code: judicial discretion to allow reduced punishment in certain circumstance, often used in honour killings case.
According to women's rights advocates, the concepts of women as property, and of honour, are so deeply entrenched in the social, political and economic fabric of Pakistan that the government mostly ignores the regular occurrences of women being killed and maimed by their families. Frequently, women killed in honour killings are recorded as having committed suicide or died in accidents.
Honour killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce - even from an abusive husband - or (allegedly) committing adultery.
Some women who bridge social divides, publicly engage other communities, or adopt some of the customs or the religion of an outside group may be attacked. In countries that receive immigrants, some otherwise low-status immigrant men and boys have asserted their dominant patriarchal status by inflicting honor killings on women family members who have participated in public life, for example, in feminist and integration politics.
The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that "dishonours" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life. Honour killings apply to both men and women in the countries where they are practised. Actions of Pakistani police officers and judges (particularly at the lower level of the judiciary) have, in the past, seemed to support the act of honour killings in the name of family honour. Police enforcement, in situations of admitted murder, do not always take action against the perpetrator. Also, judges in Pakistan (particularly at the lower level of the judiciary), rather than ruling cases with gender equality in mind, also seem to reinforce inequality and in some cases sanction the murder of women considered dishonourable.
Often, a suspected honour killing never even reaches court, but in cases where they do, the alleged killer is often not charged or is given a reduced sentence of three to four years in jail. In many cases in Pakistan, one of the reasons honour killing cases never make it to the courts, is because, according to some lawyers and women's right activists, Pakistani law enforcement do not get involved.
Under the encouragement of the killer, police often declare the killing as a domestic case that warrants no involvement.
The general indifference to the issue of honour killing within Pakistan is due to a deep-rooted gender bias in law, the police force, and the judiciary.
WE ASK FOR IMMEDIATE ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN TO STOP HONOUR KILLINGS!
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