“As many as 500 women and girls are killed for ‘honour’ in Pakistan each year, making Pakistan one of the most dangerous countries for women,” said Dr Muazzam Nasrullah, a public health specialist teaching at Emory and West Virginia University, USA, on Friday.
He was delivering a lecture on Honour Killings: A Public Health Perspective at the University of Health Sciences, organised by the UHS Department of Family Medicine.
Dr Nasrullah stressed the need to provide a platform to oppressed women. “This will help create an informed and supportive environment for advocacy for policies to eliminate violence against women,” he said.
He said, ‘honour’ killings most often involved women being murdered by their family members to avenge the ‘shame’ brought on through infidelity or culturally unacceptable behaviour. “This is a unique form of violence,” said Dr Nasrullah.
“Domestic violence is usually carried out by husbands or romantic partners…in this case the perpetrators are usually brothers or fathers.”
Dr Nasrullah said his study had tried to quantify the problem since data on the matter was hard to come by. He said he had used newspaper reports compiled by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan for his study. He said 1,957 incidents of honour killings had been recorded over the past four years.
Most of them had occurred in response to alleged extramarital relations.
Dr Nasrullah said he was sure that the number of incidents reported was lower than the actual number of incidents, as not every incident makes it to the media. “The problem is much worse than what this study makes it out to be,” he said.
The average rate of honour killings in women between 15-64 years was found to be 15 per million women per year.
He said murders for ‘honour’ occurred all over the country under various names kala-kali (Punjab), karo-kari (Sindh), tor-tora (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Siyakari (Balochistan).
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Director IA Rehman said although honour killings were illegal, there were loopholes in the law that often prevented full punishment for the crime.
He said it was very important to have reliable data about honour killings.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2014.