by Fizza Rashid
Posted on August 20, 2019
Kohistan video scandal case is one of the most brutal cases in the history of Pakistan. Five young women were murdered in the name of honor on a jirga’s order after a video of them from a wedding ceremony was uploaded on YouTube in which they could be seen clapping and enjoying the dance of two men.
In 2012, a man from the same tribe brought this case in public – breaking the custom of the tribe – after he felt that the lives of his two brothers, who were dancing in the wedding, were in danger.
This case was taken up by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Three fact-finding missions were formed to find if the girls were alive or dead. The mission submitted their report saying that the girls were alive. The case was closed in June 2012.
Afzal Kohistani moved an application in Supreme Court in January 2013 requesting it to reopen the case. Days after, three of his brothers including two who were dancing in the viral video were murdered. A local court ordered police to bring the girls in the court on which the police said girls cannot appear in the court due to societal customs. Later the girls were brought to court. In 2016, a women rights activist and a member of the fact-finding mission said that the girls who were brought to court were not the ones seen in the video.
The Kohistan police in August 2018 ─ seven years after the fact ─ registered an FIR of the alleged honor killings under Section 364 of the Pakistan Penal code and began probing the case again upon the Supreme Court’s orders.
The investigations later revealed that three of the five women were killed right after the incident and their bodies were disposed of in a nullah. The other two girls were alive and it was said that they would be produced in the court.
This whole case shows the poor situation of dealing with honor killing situation in Pakistan. There exists a lack of sensitivity, clarity and effective laws to prevent such cases. About 1,000 “honor-killings” of women by relatives are recorded each year in Pakistan. The real number is likely to be much higher.
Pakistan’s first social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was also murdered in the name of honor in her own house by her brother for taking selfies and posting those on her social media accounts. She was the only bread earner of the family. Her brother was arrested and he confessed to murdering her sister in front of media. He said that he is not ashamed of what he did.
This case brought the attention of the whole nation and government to this brutal practice of murdering women in the name of honor.
According to the custom, the male family members of a woman suspected of an out-of-wedlock liaison would first kill the woman and then go after the man.
This brutal practice is not limited to Pakistan and other countries of South Asia. It happens in even most developed countries of the world. If a woman or girl is accused or suspected of engaging in behavior that could taint her family’s status, she may face brutal retaliation from her relatives that often results in violent death.
The roots of this honor killing could be found in the global culture of discrimination against women. Women are taken as objects and commodities, not human beings entitled to dignity and rights equal to those of men.
There is a significant politics around women bodies which are considered the repositories of family honor and under the control and responsibility of her family. According to Human Rights Watch the most common reasons behind the honor killings are that the victim:
- refused to enter into an arranged marriage
- was the victim of a sexual assault or rape
- had sexual relations outside marriage, even if only alleged
But there could be other reasons too. For example, dressing in a way which is not considered appropriate by male members of the victim or showing a behavior which is unacceptable for them.
According to a report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an average of 137 women across the world are killed by a family member. This report mentioned home as the most dangerous place for a woman. More than half of the 87,000 women killed in 2017 were reported as dying at the hands of those closest to them. Of that figure, approximately 30,000 women were killed by an intimate partner and another 20,000 by a relative.
Honor killing is the most brutal form of violence against women which is at times justified at all levels. Through this platform, I request international bodies to take some steps to eradicate this most inhumane act prevalent in all counties of the world.
Women must be treated as equal human beings and they must have as much right on their body and lives as many men have. We need to teach ourselves that there is no honor in killing. It is better to kill our orthodox traditions and the patriarchal values which are the real culprit.