Violence targeting women in Pakistan manifests itself in a variety of forms and is usually carried out together with a combination of other human and women’s rights violations, all of which form part of the process of the physical and psychological abuse that a majority of women in this country suffer from.1 Honour related crimes are one type of violence that primarily targets women. These crimes encompass a range of manifestations of violence from unlawful confinement, assault, acid burning, rape to, of course the most classic and extreme form, cold blooded murder on the pretext of ‘honour’ – Honour Killings.2
Crimes committed allegedly for honour are so defined because they occur in a social setting where the “ideal of masculinity is underpinned by a notion of ‘honour’ – of an individual man, or family, or community – and is fundamentally connected to policing female behaviour and sexuality.”3 Honour of the male members of the family is understood to reside in the bodies of the women of the family, and in protecting this honour the men aim to regulate and direct women’s sexuality and freedom to exercise any control over their own choices/lives.4 Any action or perceived transgression, therefore, on the part of the women to break out of this familial setting or to defy the authority of the male members of her family requires a response that not only punishes the transgressor but, in effect, also helps restore the ‘lost’ honour and reassert the masculinity of the male family members within the society or community. Unfortunately the only responses found adequate enough to achieve this multi purpose aim are those that reaffirm the physical and social dominance of the male members over the female members and manifests itself in acts of violence against the women; illegal confinement, forced marriages, cutting off of the nose, acid burning, stove burning, rape and cold blooded murder.
The term ‘crimes of honour’ is not without its complexities and critiques. Hosain and Welchman come closest to defining it in its colloquial context stating that ‘crimes of honour’ are those “where the publicly articulated justification for the crime is attributed to a social order claimed to require the preservation of a concept of honour which is vested in male control over women, particularly over women’s sexual conduct.”5 Instances of this type of violence against women are clubbed together under this terminology and are “characterised by the ‘motivation’ rather than by the perpetrator or form of manifestation” of the criminal act.6
Table 1. Reported cases of violence against women for the year 2007