Pakistan parliament passes legislation against 'honor killings'

Pakistan parliament passes legislation against 'honor killings'
This combination of four pictures shows victims of “honor” crimes in Pakistan: Qandeel Baloch, top left, a social media star who was killed by her brother in July, 2016; Muqadas Tofeeq, top right, who local police say was killed by her mother; slain British woman Samia Shahid, whose father and ex-husband are on trial for her death; Tasleem Solangi, a 17-year-old woman who was mauled by dogs and shot to death while her father was forced to watch. (AP)
Updated 06 October 2016

Pakistan parliament passes legislation against 'honor killings'

Pakistan parliament passes legislation against 'honor killings'

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Assembly passed legislation Thursday closing a loophole that allowed people who killed in the name of “honor” to go free. The measure mandates life imprisonment even if the victim’s relatives forgive the murder.
Honor killings “claim the lives of hundreds of victims every year,” the bill stated, adding that the legislation was “essential in order to prevent these crimes from being repeatedly committed.”
Rights groups and politicians have for years called for tougher laws to tackle perpetrators of violence against women in Pakistan and the move follows a slew of high-profile killings in the country.
The perpetrators of so-called honor killings — in which the victim, normally a woman, is killed by a relative — often walk free because they can seek forgiveness for the crime from another family member.
A 2005 amendment to the law pertaining to honor killings prevented men who kill female relatives pardoning themselves as an “heir” of the victim.
But punishment was left to a judge’s discretion when other relatives of the victim forgive the killer — a loophole which critics say is exploited.
The amendments passed Thursday and published on the National Assembly website mandate judges to sentence someone who kills in the name of “honor” to life imprisonment, even if they have been forgiven, said senior opposition lawmaker Farhatullah Babar.
The assembly also passed a bill boosting the punishments for some rape offenses.
“Laws are supposed to guide better behavior, not allow destructive behavior to continue with impunity,” former senator Sughra Imam, who initially tabled the bill, told media.
Some 500 women are killed each year in Pakistan at the hands of family members over perceived damage to “honor” that can involve eloping, fraternizing with men or any other infraction against conservative values that govern women’s modesty.
Rape conviction rates are close to zero percent, largely due to the law’s reliance on circumstantial evidence and a lack of forensic testing.