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Honor Killings in Pakistan on the Rise

Samara Greenberg

At least 943 Pakistani women were murdered in 2011 “in the name of honor,” 93 of which were minors, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the country’s leading human rights group. The number of honor killings is up from the previous year, when the Commission reported 791 such murders.

According to the annual report, last year’s number is thought to be much higher than acknowledged due to cover-ups by relatives and sympathetic police officers. It noted that most of the women were killed by their brothers and husbands, and some victims were even raped beforehand. Of those killed, 595 were accused of “illicit relations” and 219 married without the family’s permission. In addition, on top of the number of women killed for defaming a family’s honor another 4,500 women were victims of domestic violence.

The report highlights a horrific problem for women in Pakistan who are often treated as second-class citizens. The country has no law against domestic violence and the implementation of laws that protect women against abuses remains a problem. Relatives are known to pardon killers, police to take a woman’s death at face value, and the courts to resist reform.

The United Nations estimates that some 5,000 women are killed each year in the name of “honor.” As an editorial in the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune notes, laws alone will not protect women from violence. “Instead, the secret may lie in efforts aimed at altering mindsets and granting women the greater security and empowerment they so badly need.”