Pakistan finally closes the loophole that lets murderers walk free for killing women in the name of honor.

Fighting unjust, gender-discriminatory laws: Pakistan’s Honor Killings Bill is a further step forward for gender equity.

Pakistan has passed the Honor Killings Bill. This builds on the The Honor Killings Act (2004) — a historic victory for gender equity, which made it punishable by law to commit murder in the name of “honor”. The Bill could now enforce a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years for the criminals convicted of their crime.

Crucially, the Honor Killings Bill ensures no recourse for perpetrators for “pardon” of their offences by their intended victims (if they survived their horrific attacks), or the victim’s families (when they all too often tragically do not survive).

This is another significant and necessary step in recognising the ineffective and frankly, intimidating, legal loophole that allowed family members to ‘forgive’ murderers in the name of so-called honor.

The original legislation placed untold, and unquantifiable, amounts of pressure on victims of honor killings in Pakistan. Not only would the family and close relatives of those that had been murdered have to endure the convoluted and slow process of bringing perpetrators to justice, they were then left with the cultural and community pressure to forgive the perpetrators under the guise of granting pardons.

This legal loophole has been contested by human rights defenders for decades, most recently and notably by the Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary ‘A girl in the river’ — an unflinching documentary exploring the prosecution of honor killings in Pakistan, and the murder of Pakistan’s social media personality Qandeel Baloch.

Globally, 5000 women are killed every year in the so-called act of “honor” killing. The parallels and complexity behind honor killings are intricate and have often given them a much tougher route to attaining justice. This is often as they are confused or conveniently conflated with a solely “Muslim” phenomenon, making the “cultural misrepresentation” argument easier for global leaders to hide behind, rather than tackle much more uncompromisingly.

With the increasing recognition that honor killing is much more intricately linked to domestic violence, gender violence and human rights infringements, we can have a much more targeted, and actionable plan, to ensure that non-Muslims and Muslims alike cannot distance themselves from an issue that they must recognise in order to stop.

This is all reported changes to the legislation, as news broke earlier this month, and we must continue to make our voices are heard to ensure this Bill continues its journey from officially being passed into legislation, to being enforced within Pakistan’s criminal justice system. You can sign the #LevelTheLaw petition here:

As individuals we also have the responsibility to challenge societal and cultural attitudes that normalise the objectification of women’s bodies and implicitly produces men to think they have claim over a woman’s choices. At Chayn, we want to see a better world — a world where sisters, daughters, and wives do not fear their family.

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