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Right: Victim’s husband

Pakistan is no exception when it comes to ills of honour killings. Every year, according to estimates, nearly 1000 lives are lost in the name of honour killing, mostly women. The recent incident in Lahore where a mother burnt her 17 year old daughter, Zeenat, for marrying a guy of her choice is just another case of countless atrocities women in our society suffer from. Zeenat was legally married to the person she was in love with for past many years. She was already living at her husband’s place. Family of Zeenat insisted on her returning home. She was hesitant and unwilling. Before she left her husband’s place, she told her husband that her family would not let her come back to him. It was not the case that the girl had secretly run away to marry this guy, named Hassan. He sent marriage proposals several times, all turned down. Upon which he and Zeenat decided to elope.

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The victim, Zeenat

Parveen, mother of Zeenat, tied her to a cot and inundated her with kerosene oil before she lit her to fire. Her neighbours heard her agonizing screams many of which tried to rescue her but the family did not let anybody in the house. Adding to readers’ misery, person who accompanied Parveen in killing Zeenat was her own son and deceased’s brother, Ahmar.

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Analysing in religious perspective, nowhere in Quran, the holy book of Muslims, it is permitted to kill women in the name of family’s honour. However, it would not be fair to deny the fact that in majority Islamic cultures, women have always been treated as a property of men, having no rights. There exists a clear distinction between teachings of Quran and prevalent culture in Islamic countries, which needs to be maintained to understand the issue at hand in perspective. Honour killing is not a phenomenon linked to Islam or any other religion. It is, in fact, a social phenomenon linked to ‘patriarchal’ nature of society which existed even in pre-Islamic era.

Dissecting the term ‘Honour killing’, it is any killing/murder in the name of family or community’s honour. Honour is a mere belief deeply rooted inside cultures, traditions and societies. Society needs to be educated that honour is a belief while human life is a reality. There is no way these two could be equalled. The cure lies in empowerment of women, considering women individual human beings rather than a property of families they belong to. Pakistan also needs to un-link their middle-eastern understanding of masculinity being honour and control while femininity being submissiveness and sexual purity. Unless we collectively as a progressive society challenge our beliefs, there will not be a halt to such events and another Zeenat will become a victim somewhere.

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