Triv­i­al­is­ing mur­der

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Mar­ria Qib­tia S Na­gra Email:na­gram­

SINCE the me­dieval times, the term honor has been em­ployed as a con­ve­nient jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the most heart wrench­ing of moral trans­gres­sions, es­pe­cially against women. From the time of the an­cient Ro­mans, who be­lieved in the right of the pa­ter­fa­mil­ias to kill the women of his fam­ily over al­le­ga­tions of tainted cred­i­bil­ity, to the Euro­peans who lit­er­ally burned their women to death in case they ex­erted per­sonal choices, or to the an­cient Mex­i­cans who ad­her­ing to their Aztec Laws, stoned and stran­gu­lated the ‘im­pi­ous’ and ‘dis­hon­ourable’ women, killing as a mat­ter of con­ve­nience has al­ways been prac­ticed un­der the façade of hon­our.

The past cou­ple of days have il­lu­mi­nated a se­ries of hon­our killings, oc­cur­ring un­bri­dled around the coun­try, all stand­ing there as bleed­ing wounds de­mand­ing our at­ten­tion to be re­dressed. Be it the burn­ing to death of Am­breen in Ab­bot­tabad over the al­leged claims of as­sist­ing her friend in con­tract­ing a love mar­riage, to the killing of Sumera in Karachi over con­vers­ing with an out­sider, or the killing of Maria in Mur­ree fol­low­ing her re­fusal of a mar­riage pro­posal , to the mur­der of Zeenat in La­hore for dar­ing to con­tract a mar­riage out of her own will, all cases of hon­our killings share a poignant strain of thought- the de­sire of fe­male vic­tims to ex­ert their in­de­pen­dence over is­sues that mat­tered to them. They all ended up be­ing mur­dered in the name of hon­our, for they did what they deemed ap­pro­pri­ate. Any saner mind would ques­tion that was a woman’s de­sire to ex­ert her in­de­pen­dence so grave an of­fence, whose price could only be paid by putting an end to her life, when all that she had been do­ing so was freely ad­vo­cat­ing her in­de­pen­dence, some­thing guar­an­teed to her by the con­sti­tu­tion of the land?

Or is her fate for­ever sealed, by the virtue of her very gen­der, for she has long been con­sid­ered as the weaker sex, cal­lously as­so­ci­ated with male hon­our? The de­spi­ca­ble trend of hon­our killings also al­ludes to the sus­cep­ti­bil­ity of women to vi­o­lence that as­sumes the pos­ture of abuse in re­la­tion­ships. And it does not ends just there, in­stead is in­di­rectly in­cul­cated in the minds of the younger lot, who upon ob­serv­ing the male pa­tri­archs abus­ing the women of their fam­ily , come to be­lieve in the need of the re­course to vi­o­lence as a usual prac­tice in it­self. The psy­cho­log­i­cal the­ory of “Cy­cle of Vi­o­lence”, that stresses that vi­o­lent be­hav­iour is largely learned, rather than in­trin­sic. Em­i­nent psy­chol­o­gist, Gelles con­tends that it is unit of fam­ily it­self that im­parts ap­proval for the us­age of vi­o­lence. Since a child is a prod­uct of his en­vi­ron­ment, a vi­o­lent do­mes­tic set­ting would in­duce in his per­son­al­ity a ten­dency to com­mit vi­o­lent acts when he grows up, since this is what he has been ob­serv­ing around him­self since his child­hood.

Go­ing by this sad re­al­ity, the re­mod­elling of the bleak so­cial des­tiny where the ‘cus­toms su­per­sede laws’, seems to be a far cry for Pak­istan, con­sid­er­ing the ap­a­thetic in­ac­tiv­ity of the gov­ern­ing forces in the face of this crime. Al­most ev­ery time fol­low­ing such a crim­i­nal in­ci­dent, those at the helms of affairs are seen hud­dling to­gether to pro­duce a cou­ple of ad­di­tive laws and leg­is­la­tions to cope with the crime, yet the re­al­ity is that th­ese ap­par­ent pearls of wis­dom , ex­ist only on pa­per with lit­tle prac­ti­cal value at­tached to them.

What the lead­er­ship con­tin­u­ously fails to re­al­ize is that, it is the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pre-ex­ist­ing laws against this crime that needs to be en­sured, if at all it is se­ri­ous in its ap­proach to­wards curb­ing it. Why many cases of honor killings ex­ist in the first place is be­cause, the per­pe­tra­tors of the crime are not pe­nal­ized for their hor­ren­dous act. The mo­ment they re­al­ize that they will be taken to task for their shame­less act, will be the mo­ment when e can re­ally hope for the crime to be curbed. In the wake of this re­al­ity, it also needs to be un­der­stood that since so­cial at­ti­tudes play a piv­otal role in herald­ing change in the so­ci­ety, the me­dia can come across as a po­tent tool in over­haul­ing mass per­cep­tions as­so­ci­ated with honor killings. By pro­ject­ing it as a de­spi­ca­ble act, a mur­der that is in no way as­so­ci­ated with recla­ma­tion of hon­our, a killing that should gar­ner shame rather than ap­proval and by ne­ces­si­tat­ing on the need for valu­ing the fe­male space, voice and in­de­pen­dence, since it de­serves to be ac­knowl­edged, the me­dia can surely ren­der its part of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

To evolve as a na­tion, and as a so­ci­ety for that mat­ter hon­our killings need to be tack­led with an iron hand. In our fail­ure to take a ro­bust stance and line of ac­tion against hon­our killings, we are col­lec­tively triv­i­al­iz­ing mur­der, mak­ing it seem as a jus­ti­fi­able prac­tice against ‘hon­our re­claim­ing’ con­texts. By do­ing so we are not only man­i­fest­ing our morally re­gres­sive pos­tures in an age where ad­vance­ment and pro­gres­sion are the catch­words, but are also seal­ing the fates of hun­dreds and thou­sands of women whose only de­mand is to be heard , to be re­spected and pro­tected against such vile ad­vances. Our si­lence to­day, sadly seals fate of an­other in­no­cent soul, some­where in Pak­istan, who will be killed in the name of hon­our. It would just be an­other heart­less mur­der, an­other loss of an in­no­cent life, and a deeper spot­ting of an­other dreary stain on the tat­tered fab­ric of hu­man­ity and moral­ity, stand­ing as an ex­pose of the Pak­istani so­ci­ety. — The writer is a free­lance colum­nist based in La­hore.

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