Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, March 18, 2016

Condoning Cultural-Inspired Killing

"If my film ["A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness"]can hopefully play a small part in getting legislation passed and [inspiring] introspection on why this exists in our society, how it manifests, it's a victory."
"We cannot compromise on the 52 percent of Pakistan [Pakistani women's human rights]. That is not the way [legislation protecting women's rights, but lacking implementation]."
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Karachi, Pakistan
"My firm opinion is that honour killings are community-sanctioned violence, and this cannot only be changed by laws. The perpetrator walks proudly with his chest puffed up with pride [having fulfilled his cultural obligation to restore honour by killing the one who brought dishonour]."
"There was one shelter for women in Karachi when its population was two million, and there's still one shelter, and the city's population is 24 million."
Zia Ahmed Awan, Pakistani lawyer
Ms. Obaid-Chinoy's documentary short film depicting the horror experienced by an 18-year-old Pakistani woman when her father and her uncle attempted to murder her, followed by the cruel imposition on her survival of the murderous attack, that she oblige convention and public opinion by forgiving the two men for their unforgivable assault upon her struck a powerful note for women in Pakistan. The cultural social practise of restoring honour by killing the woman responsible for flouting convention by eloping or embarking on an unsanctioned personal relationship outside of marriage, or marrying an 'unsuitable' man is not only a stain on Pakistan, it is also a frequently exported custom when Pakistanis emigrate to live elsewhere.

In 2014 over 700 women have been documented as having been killed, according to statistics arrived at by the Aurat Foundation women's advocacy group, though other groups cite much higher figures. The film, "A Girl n the River" had a special screening for Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who after congratulating the film maker for having received an Oscar, made an announcement that his government would be "in the process of legislating to stop such brutal and inhumane acts in the name of honour". While he's at it, he might consider enacting legislation that he plans to have fully implemented, against persecuting Christian women, including those who spurn Islam.

Islamist fundamentalists and their political parties in Pakistan will resist any attempts to turn around long-standing and publicly respected customs that imperil women who refuse to comply with societal custom that dictates how they may live as women in an Islamist society. The kind of resistance that women like Ms. Obaid-Chinoy face in agitating and campaigning for justice and human rights assurances for Pakistan's women is not easily bypassed, for those women themselves place themselves in danger by their public condemnation of the status quo.

In rural areas of the country in particular tribal leaders make it their first order of business to respond when a woman in their community has done the unthinkable, taken the initiative to make a personal choice that will dictate her future in the decision to seek a divorce, elope with someone her parents have not chosen for her, or insolently insist on making her own choice in these matters. Eloping couples are hunted down and killed, as an example to others who might wish to emulate their unsanctioned behaviour bringing dishonour to the community.

"There is so much pressure from the tribal leaders and landlords, and even from the families [in support of honour killings]. There is maybe one case out of dozens that ends up in court", explains Farida Hashmat, a lawyer. "Very few people get to the court." And should a woman attempt to report her fears to police she will come hard up against disinterest and an unwillingness o intervene. Police involvement with upholding the law is lax, there are few resources dedicated to giving haven and support to abused and threatened women, and existing legislation has few mechanisms for implementation.

When, in Punjab Province, a new law was enacted by legislators offering protection to victims of domestic violence, it faced condemnation by right-wing parties. Conservative politician Maulana Fazlur Rehmen described the law as a "humiliation of husbands". During a television broadcast cleric Mufti Muhammad Naeem spoke of Ms. Obaid-Chinoy as an "obscene woman".

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