By Veshal Gondal 

Farzana Parveen, a 25 year old pregnant women, was stoned to death in front of the Lahore courthouse by her family members. Her only mistake was, that she refused to marry someone her parents had chosen[1]. She was attacked by her family as she walked to the courthouse to marry the man she loved. Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights declares, “No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” Though a signatory to this treaty, the Pakistani government has done very little to protect the civil and political rights of minorities, especially women. Women are forced into marriage without their consent, or approval. Some are married away to settle debt, resolve family issues, and for cultural reasons.

Unfortunately Farzana Parveen is not the only woman in Pakistan to which this has happened. According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, nearly 869 women were subject to honor Killings in 2013 alone. Some organizations peg the number even higher, since many more killings go unreported. The Aurat Foundation in Pakistan reports that nearly 1,000 women are killed annually in Pakistan by their relatives[2]. The stigma surrounding women honor in Pakistan further degrades the government’s ability to combat honor killings. Many families refuse to press charges on the perpetrators, believing that their daughters brought dishonor to the family. The combination of family support for the perpetrators and the social stigma surrounding women’s honor in Pakistan often leads to light sentences, and in some cases even acquittals for the accused[3]. The issue of honor killings in Pakistan and throughout the MENA region stem almost exclusively from cultural practices. Often times these crimes are tied to Islam, although the religion explicitly forbids any violence against women.

Honor killing is not just a local, Pakistani issue. Throughout the Muslim world, honor killing is seen as a way to correct one’s family honor. The conservative cultures of many Middle Eastern countries make it very hard for the plight of women to be heard. Though a reoccurring issue, overall rates of honor killings throughout the Middle East has significantly decreased. Governments have taken major strides in educating people in rural communities where most of these crimes often happen. In Pakistan organizations such as the Aurat Foundation, have worked hard to bring this often taboo subject to light. The Aurat foundation gives the regularly oppressed women of Pakistan an outlet to have their voices heard. A combination of media attention, women organizations and stricter government crackdown on the perpetrators of these crimes has dramatically reversed the frequency of honor killings.

Winter, Michael. “Pregnant Pakistani Woman Stoned to Death by Her Family.”USA Today. Gannett, 30 May 2014.

Pregnant Pakistani Woman Stoned to Death by Family.” Guardian News and Media, 28 May 2014.