Friday, February 3, 2012

Pakistan: Tribal Killers Hunting Down Newlyweds Who Dishonored Families

Does there ever come a point when we say that all cultures are not equally good?

KARACHI--Back home, Z and N saw their siblings dragged outside, shot in broad daylight, and buried at night without a funeral—so that their family could continue to live with ‘honour’ in the village and amid the clan.

Now in Karachi, the couple hides in a one-room house in a wholly unfamiliar neighbourhood. They fear a similar fate.

“My family declared us karo kari just because I married of my own choice,” said 23-year-old Z, bursting into tears. “We have come to Karachi for protection.”

Couples who choose to marry of their own free will and in return are declared untouchables for ‘defaming’ the family name, are leaving their hometowns in rural Sindh to seek refuge in the metropolis. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan states that during the last two months, around five married couples have fled to Karachi from Jacobabad, Larkana and Sukkur. Z who hails from Naudero, and her husband from Shikarpur, are the fifth couple, who came here earlier this month.

Their tale is not a typical love story. They did not fall in love in lush green fields but met only at family gatherings and talked occasionally on the phone. However, the decision to spend their lives together came abruptly when Z’s father decided to marry her to a 60-year-old man in exchange for a hefty amount.

On the night of January 12, Z escaped from home, boarded a bus and got married to N in Sukkur the next morning. “We sent our marriage certificate to our families hoping that they would be happy for us,” N says. “While my family reluctantly accepted, Z’s family called a jirga and declared us karo kari.” They wanted them to be brought back and killed.

Years ago, Z’s pregnant sister met a similar fate after she overslept on her train and missed her stop. The family accused her of running away from home with a lover. On the other hand, N’s brother, who was in the army, was killed only because he liked a girl from another clan.

Thus, for Z and N, the only choice they had was to come to Karachi, and file a petition in the Sindh High Court, seeking protection. But the danger is not over. They do not go outside as the people hunting for them have reached the city.

“It’s not a crime to marry the person we want to. But back home, our elders think women are their property. We can’t do things we want to do. At least in the city, we can breathe freely,” said Z from behind her burqa, perhaps the thinnest protection she has for now.

Taranum Khan of the HRCP says that almost all of such killings, which took place in the city last year, were of couples who had fled their villages. “If people think that they can be safe in Karachi, they are wrong. Their families hunt them down here and kill them,” she said. (Read more.)


ShootyMcBang said...

It is difficult to understand or offer support to a society that places "honor" above human life (any life really) and views their women as less than livestock. How does murder equate to honor? It cannot be explained. Nor can it be justified.

Unknown said...

The reason we have domestic violence laws is because of the unique relationship between the abuser and the victim, which makes prosecution more difficult. The victim is typically dependent on the abuser (financially, emotionally, etc.), and has been isolated and conditioned to take blame and responsibility for the actions of the abuser and their own abuse. That isolation and conditioning by the abuser is extreme, long-term, deliberate planning in order to escape consequences for behavior. It is very hard to prosecute a crime when the victim covers up for the criminal, taking the blame out of fear of retaliation by the abuser.

Islam protects the abuser of domestic violence to the point of codifying it. Because the Qur'an and the Sunna extol and excuse the abuse of women (and it is there in the texts for anyone to find), Sharia law legally enforces that behavior. Sharia law also allows fathers and mothers to "legally" kill their children, giving them the legal "right" to kill children without even requiring any rationalization for the killing. But, because of the subjugation and legalized abuse of women who disobey men it is seen as shameful when women do not obey the men in their lives, especially their fathers. A father, husband, brother who feels embarrassed by gossip or even the fear of gossip and that other men will see him as not in control of the women in his life, is allowed and expected to defend his "honor." Sharia law allows him to do this by abusing and/or killing the woman who disobeys him. He is killing a woman to save face with other Muslim men. Sharia law may protect this behavior, but U.S. law considers killing a human being (which women are considered to be under U.S. law) to save face First Degree Murder. That is, of course, if such criminal intent is allowed to be presented in court.