EU must speak out against 'honour killings'

The European and international community must put pressure on Pakistan to protect the rights of women and respect the rule of law, argues Barbara Matera.

By Barbara Matera MEP

12 Jun 2014

In one of the most disturbing recent incidents involving violence against women in Pakistan, Farzana Parveen, a pregnant woman, was beaten to death by her own family in the crowded streets of Lahore, just outside the local high court building on 27 May 2014.

The 'honour killing' happened when one of Parveen's brothers attempted to shoot her before he and other male family members attacked her with bricks and blunt instruments. During the incident, outside the busy court complex, her father simply looked on while no member of the public came forward to intervene despite her cries for help.

According to reports, policemen were quietly overlooking and only intervened to arrest the father after Parveen was left dead on the street.

Parveen, who was three months pregnant, was due to appear in the high court in order to defend a case brought by her parents, claiming that her husband had kidnapped the young woman.

According to her husband, her family had been angry after failing to extract money from him before their marriage.

"According to the Pakistani human rights commission, about 900 women are killed every year in 'honour killings' committed by their families"

According to the Pakistani human rights commission, about 900 women are killed every year in 'honour killings' committed by their families. Few cases come to court and trials can take years.

Often the killers are allowed to walk free because Pakistan's Islamic-influenced legal system provides for the forgiveness of persons closely related to the victim.

In 2013, Gul Meena, a 17 year-old girl from Pakistan, was attacked by her brother with an axe. Her friend was killed instantly while she suffered serious injuries to her head and body, but with the help of a local NGO she managed to survive.

Gul has escaped to Afghanistan with a friend after she left her 60 year-old husband who had been abusing her since the age of 12 when her parents forced her to marry him.

An Amnesty International report noted the failure of the authorities to prevent these killings by investigating and punishing the perpetrator. 'Honour killings' are supposed to be prosecuted as any ordinary murder, but in practice, police and prosecutors often ignore it.

Even if the legal framework appears to be in place, in reality the laws have been ignored, allowing for girls and women in Pakistan to be victims of social norms which have been repeatedly defying the system in place.

The numerous incidents of 'honour killings' indicate the scale of the problem and the need for the European and international community to speak out against the Pakistani authorities to ensure the protection and safety of these women.

The Pakistani government needs to do much more towards women's rights and the protection of women, alongside its commitments towards the protection of the fundamental rights of its citizens, as it is required by the international treaties it has signed.

At the same time, respect of the laws and protection of its own people from abuses will guarantee the much anticipated social and economic development in the country. All EU funding, provided in this direction, should be centred on evidence-based results.

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