Justice Majida Rizvi: Treat honour killing as homicide

DOHA: Honour killing should be considered as any other homicidal activity, according to an expert. A prominent public figure from Pakistan slammed ‘honour killing’ practised in some parts of the world.

More than 5,000 women and girls are killed every year by family members in so-called ‘honour killings’, according to the United Nations Population Fund. These crimes occur where cultures believe that a woman’s unsanctioned sexual behaviour brings shame on the family. Hence any female accused or suspected must be murdered. Reasons for these murders can be as trivial as talking to a man, or as suffering rape.

“No where do the Holy Scripture mention this abhorrent practice of honour killing,” said Justice Majida Rizvi, the first woman judge of a high court in Pakistan. She lambasted the proponents of honour killing and urged formation of a body that check such practices world wide.

Honour killings are rooted in the deep traditions of the Middle East and have little to do with religion. None of the holy books promote killing women in response to adultery, other forms of infidelity, or rape.

The rights granted to women in the Quran and by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were a vast improvement to the situation of women. But according to UN, honour killings has been reported in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, and other Mediterranean countries, and that they had also taken place in western countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, within migrant communities.

A study conducted in 2001 in Egypt showed that doubting women’s behaviour constituted 79 percent of honour crimes, while admitting misconduct constituted a mere nine percent. According to a government report, 4,000 women and men were killed in Pakistan in the name of honour between 1998 and 2003, the number of women being more than double the number of men. “It is just an ancient tradition and it has nothing to do with religion. In all the cases girls under go brutal violence and very rarely is the boy punished. Women are victims of inhuman customs and discriminatory laws,” Justice Rizvi told The Peninsula.

“Honour killing is a crime as per law. But the traditional customs are often so powerful that at times the rules and regulations are completely disregarded. It’s disgusting to say that ministers and political leaders in different countries closely linked with these crimes,” she said.

“When an issue about brutal murder of five women in the name of honour was brought up in Pakistan legislative assembly recently, the concerned member just said it’s the custom. Similar will be the situation in other areas too. So what is the whole point of having law and signing many international agreements? Though we have a number of laudable plans, there can be no comprehensive progress unless some of the root problems are addressed.”

“We need strong and firm decisions in women’s favour. The international agencies should also ensure that each country apart from sending regular reports also implements and put to practice its norms. If this happens, we can make an iota of difference to this horrifyingly brutal and continuing practice of honour killing,” she said.

Justice Rizvi retired as a judge of the Sindh high court and worked as the chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women. She was in Doha to attend the colloquium on Impact of Violence against Women on the Family organised by the Doha Institute for Family Studies and Development and the Supreme Council for Family Affairs.

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Thanks to the International Campaign Against Honour Killings for the tip.