Pakistan Makes “Honour Killings” Punishable by Mandatory Prison Time
Date: January 3, 2017
Pakistan Makes ‘Honour Killings’ Punishable by Mandatory Prison Time
Those convicted of killing a ‘shameful’ female relative can no longer be pardoned by family members in exchange for “blood money,” new law states.
Mohammad Tofeeq shows a picture with his wife Muqadas who Pakistani police say was killed by her mother in the name of ‘honor’. Photograph: KM Chaudary/AP
By Jon Boone in Sialkot, Pakistan – October 6, 2016
Pakistanis who kill their female relatives in the name of honour will no longer be able to evade punishment after the country’s parliament finally passed long-promised legislation.
The landmark bill guarantees mandatory prison sentences of 25 years and strips families of the right to legally pardon the perpetrators of so-called “honour killings”, a practice that has allowed thousands of murderers to walk free.
Because such crimes are usually carried out with the agreement of entire families, murderers are often released under Islamic “blood money” laws that rights activists have campaigned against for decades.
First incorporated in 1990, the Qisas (retribution) and Diyat (blood money) laws have fueled an epidemic of honour killing, with 1,096 reported in 2015 – although the actual figure is probably far higher.
Daughters and sisters have been murdered for allegedly bringing shame on their families in various ways, including daring to marry men of their own choosing and, in one case this year, helping a friend elope.
Although the country’s clerics have been opposition to any dilution of laws based on Sharia principle, they do not condone murder
A 2004 reform effort was “severely mutilated” to accommodate such concerns, according to a report by the Aurat Foundation, a rights group.
And in an apparent sop to conservatives the law passed on Thursday was not as tough as when it was first introduced as a private member’s bill in 2014.
The new law, which was passed by a joint sitting of the two houses of Pakistan’s parliament, will allow relatives to pardon the killer if he is sentenced to death.
However, the culprit will not be able to avoid a mandatory life prison sentence.
Sughra Imam, the former senator who first introduced the bill said the new law was a step forward.
She said: “The original bill was more stringent, but nonetheless, the new law will deter honour killings in the future because perpetrators will not be able to avoid convictions.”
Parliament also passed a tough new anti-rape law intended to speed up trials and mandating DNA testing – another proposal that has troubled some religious hardliners in the past who say Sharia law says rape can only be proved by testimony of multiple eyewitnesses.