Declaration on Burying Women Alive/Killing of Women in the Name of "Honour" and other Customary Practices


Burying Five Women Alive in Naseerabad and the Customary Practices

ISLAMABAD: Representatives of civil society organizations and committed activists from all over Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Jacobabad, Khairpur, Larkana, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Naseerabad, Mardan, Swabi and Islamabad gathered here in Islamabad for a national consultation on 18 September 2008, on the issue of ‘Burying Five Women Alive in Naseerabad and the Customary Practices’.

The Consultation was called together by the Joint Action Committees (JACs), Women’s Action Forums (WAF chapters), Insani Haqooq Itehad (IHI) and Violence Against Women (VAW) Watch Groups. The Consultation discussed the issue in detail in a day-long deliberation and devised strategies to deal with the alarming situation of violence against women, particularly the cases of heinous nature such as honour killings, gang rape, acid throwing etc.

The Consultation has issued the following declaration after the conclusion of its deliberations:

Declaration on Burying Women Alive/Killing of Women in the Name of “Honour” and other Customary Practices
18 September 2008: Islamabad

We, members of the Joint Action Committees (JACs), Women’s Action Forums (WAF chapters), Insani Haqooq Itehad (IHI) and Violence Against Women Watch Groups, hereby declare:

that burying women alive or killing them is the most inhuman, heinous, barbaric, unspeakable crime amongst the vast spectrum of violent crimes against women;
that the defence of such cruel inhumanity in the name of so-called ‘honour’, or tribal customs, traditions and norms is totally unacceptable and indefensible; and that such traditions are NOT honourable;
that we will no longer tolerate the impunity of such instances of brutal killings of women in the name of so-called “honour” ANYWHERE in Pakistan;
that we will continue to condemn and abhor and work against ALL such crimes against women, reported from any part of Pakistan;
that we will employ all our strengths, energies and efforts to prevent any form of a cover-up of such heinous crimes against women by the entrenched tribal, feudal and patriarchal structures and systems, whether demonstrated by the political elites, the legislators, the judiciary, the police, or the federal, provincial, district or local administrations; or by self-styled religious vigilantes;
that we will no longer allow women to be used as pawns – as convenient expendable targets – in feuds between men over murder, property, money, political and tribal rivalries, blood vendettas and misplaced perceptions of “honour” issues;

We demand the following immediate actions from the Government of Pakistan:
1. Civil Society Commission to prepare an independent Fact Finding Report.
2. Letters of concern to Parliament.
3. Shaheed Auratain (Women killed in the name of ‘honour’ are Martyrs) – raise these women to hero status
4. Long March for Shaheed Women
5. Disqualification of Senator Zehri and all those public representatives who defended ‘Honour Killings’.
6. Demand a legislation against Jirgas/Panchayats/Informal judicial structures.
7. Dua for Shaheed Aurtain and offer Namaz-e-Janazaa
8. Focus groups with legislators to discuss the Honour killing law (Dec 2004) and the necessary amendments.
10. Encourage other senators to initiate complaint against Zehri tin the Senate.
11. Launch a Poster and Media campaign.
12. Documentary on such issue should be publicized
13. Visit and offer Fateha at graveyards of women killed under the name of “honour” .
14. Protest outside Joint Session on 20th Sept in Islamabad and provincial capitals
15. Signature campaigns
16. Form a group of concerned individuals including lawyers, retired Judges, Human Rights activitsts and media personnel that should include some eminent personalities to follow such cases
17. Vigilant committees in region to monitor day to day updates and reporting to everyone.
18. Acknowledge the courage and stance of Senator Yasmeen Shah and many media persons who have continued to report on this issue despite threats to their lives.
19. Dedicate 16 Days of Activism this year (2008) to Shaheed Women Killed in the name of Honour.
20. We demand that public representatives denounce all forms of killings particularly of women whether in the name of ‘honour’, ‘tradition’ or ‘custom’.

• Women and human rights group will hold 4 seminars at Provincial levels in the interior of the country in order to build vocal support against ‘honour killings’.

• We call upon the government representatives to stay vigilant in order to identify the preparation of such a crime as ‘honour killing’ so that prevention measures can be timely taken up.

• The government should provide protection to potential victims of ‘honour killings’ and restraining orders be passed against those accused of conspiracy to murder.

• Those threatening women activists and Parliamentarians for denouncing the act of ‘honour killings’ should be proceeded against under the law.

• The Penal Code needs to be further amended so that murder is brought back as a crime against the state and should under no circumstances be compounded. Murder of members of vulnerable groups be taken as an aggravated rather than mitigated circumstance.

• A high powered commission be set up to present a report to the Parliament on Violence Against Women (VAW), particularly focusing on state responsibility and to present its conclusions and recommendations for legal policy action by the government.

• The government should provide protection to women NGOs deserving to undertake fact finding missions in incidents of ‘honour killings’.

• An Independent Public Prosecutor to nominate a senior lawyer to follow up with the police