The death of the sisters Anisa and Arooj Abbas, aged 24 and 21, residents of Terrassa (Barcelona) and murdered in Pakistan allegedly by their brother and their husbands, among other relatives, is being investigated by the Pakistani Police as a crime of honor , a practice still in force in Pakistan and socially tolerated in many sectors of the country.
The organization Human Rights Watch defines honor crimes as acts of violence, usually murder, committed by men against women in the family, considering that they have dishonored the clan, and estimates the number of women murdered in Pakistan each year at 1,000 . The victims are fundamentally women and girls convicted by their parents or brothers, and several people usually participate in the murders, since on many occasions the crimes are agreed upon in the family. The cause may be having sex with someone your parents or siblings don’t approve of, asking for a divorce, having sex, or simply dressing inappropriately.
Human rights organizations believe that the real number of deaths is even higher, because many of the murders, because they occur within the same family, go unreported. This is the case of the young women of Terrassa. Their mother, who, according to reports, tried unsuccessfully to protect her daughters and had to listen from a nearby room as they died, refused to denounce the aggressors (her own son, among them) and it has been the Pakistani police who undertake Actions.
The causes range from adultery to simply the way of dressing
According to a Pew Research study, in 2011 four out of ten Pakistanis supported honor killings, seeing it as good to kill a woman to restore family honor. Pressure from human rights and women’s defense associations and from other sectors led to an important legislative change in 2016: a sentence of 25 years in prison was imposed for anyone who murdered a woman and it was prohibited for murderers to they could be released if they received forgiveness from the victim’s relatives, something that was usual. Until 2005, the law allowed those responsible for honor killings to evade justice by pardoning themselves as family members of the victim.
Despite tougher laws, many cases continue to go unpunished. The most notorious was that of Qandeel Balonch, 26, an internet celebrity, known as the Kardashian of Pakistan. Her brother Waseem Azeem considered her poses on her Facebook “shameful” and on July 15, 2016 he killed her by suffocating her in her sleep. Azeem was sentenced to life in prison in 2019, but was released a couple of months ago after, according to local and international media reports, receiving a pardon from his parents.
Honor killings are especially common in certain regions of Pakistan, such as Baluchistan in the south-west of the country. Last February, the Europa Press agency echoed the death of a dozen people for honor crimes in just two weeks in the city of Dera Murad Jamalí. The latest victim, the information explained, was an 18-year-old married woman murdered by her father-in-law as punishment for an extramarital affair.
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