Saturday, 8 October 2016

An end to (coercing) 'forgiveness' in honour killings

The parents of Qandeel Baloch no longer have a place to live. According tonews reports, their landlord evicted them a few days ago.
He isn’t the only one at their necks; most of the people in Basti Marrha, their Multan neighborhood, have been at odds with them.
They, along with Qandeel Baloch’s brother-in-law Javed Iqbal Rind, have been insistent that Azeem Khan and Anwar Bibi forgive Waseem, their son and Qandeel’s murderer.
They have refused to do so, even as Rind has been threatening their lives and their seven sons have all forsaken them over their demands for justice over Qandeel’s murder.
Even as the tragic Qandeel Baloch saga births new chapters of misery, a milestone was finally reached, hundreds of miles away in Islamabad. The Anti-Rape and Anti-Honour Crime Bills, both of which had been pending for quite some time, were both passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan on Thursday, October 6, 2016.
According to the provisions of the Honour Crime Bill, relatives of the murderer would only be able to pardon him if he was sentenced to capital punishment.
This provision was expectedly fought over by members of the religious parties who insisted that the Bill should be approved by a panel of religious clerics before the final vote and passage.
The new provision relating to rape says that verdicts must be delivered within three months and that DNA samples be collected and sent for forensic analysis.
The Anti-Rape Bill also criminalises the rape of minors and the disabled and makes provisions for a mandatory sentence of 25 years for rape.
The Bills are a step forward, especially in the context of a country where the fate of the parents’ of Qandeel Baloch is a sharp and humiliating reality.
The loophole that allows (or leads to coercive) 'forgiveness' to be granted to the perpetrators of honour crimes has been a death sentence hanging over the heads of all of the country’s women.
In this sense, the legislative commitment to override the obstacles of opponents and the Prime Minister’s statement that he is committed to enforcing the provisions of the laws passed feels like the rare glimmer of the sort of hope that is often too hard to find in the country.
Honour killings of course will not end just by these particular laws.
The girls who become victims of these crimes are the bravest and sturdiest of the lot.
Far greater numbers kill themselves out of hopelessness and haplessness, driven to death by the oppressive demands of the men who they know can and will kill them.
Their deaths are not counted in the numbers of honour crimes, fractional figures of a reality too grim to count.
Of the ones that are counted, the increased commitment to try and convict, to not forgive beyond being spared the death penalty, is more than nothing.
It is also a reminder that, for nearly 70 years, there was precisely that: nothing.
The particular nature of honour crime is that its architecture is essentially dependent on many more people than the perpetrator himself.
Qandeel Baloch’s case and what her old parents have been telling interviewers is a case in point.
Their neighborhood and relatives, Qandeel’s brother-in-law with whom the murderer Waseem was staying, all of their sons, are all in favor of a pardon.
With so many involved directly and indirectly in allotting punishments to women they perceive as errant, punishments for single, literal perpetrators are not enough.
A system of disincentives has to be created via which these communities, which believe themselves tainted and dishonoured, and hence justified in committing the crime, face collective consequences for their involvement.
A possible life sentence for the murderer is an important step, but just one small portion of what must be a web of punitive measures.
When a village, a neighbourhood, a tribe and a family know that its own welfare is at risk owing to its promotion and perpetration of honour crimes, there will be some hope that they will cease.
In the meantime, Qandeel Baloch’s parents remain homeless and afraid for their lives. Anwar Bibi is in her seventies, her husband disabled having the use of one leg.
Amid the celebrations over the legislation, some attention must be turned to them, some arrangement made for the meager means they need to live out their grief stricken lives.
It is too late to save their daughter, but perhaps they can receive some protection from the state that failed their child.
Her grave, her father tells reporters, is covered like she wanted, with a Pakistani flag.

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