A girl in the river

The Pak Banker - - NATIONAL - Mehreen Naveed Sid­dique

SHARMEEN Obaid-Chi­noy's "A Girl in the River: The Price of For­give­ness" has earned recog­ni­tion and praise around the globe; also win­ning an Os­car for the best doc­u­men­tary (short sub­ject) this Sun­day. The ac­claimed doc­u­men­tary sheds light on the grue­some prac­tice of "Honor Killings" which are quite fre­quent in Pak­istan. It is the ruth­less mur­der of usu­ally, a woman by her rel­a­tives, due to the un­founded be­lief that the woman had some­how brought 'shame' upon her fam­ily.

The doc­u­men­tary fol­lows the story of a teenage girl, Saba,who mirac­u­lously sur­vived be­ing beaten, shot in the head and thrown into the river by her own father and un­cle, af­ter she made the choice of mar­ry­ing a man against their wishes. A lo­cal po­lice of­fi­cer in sup­port of Saba, was able to get the two as­sas­sins im­pris­oned for their heinous crimes. Saba was pres­sur­ized by fel­low vil­lagers to par­don the two per­pe­tra­tors. As a re­sult of a law pro­mul­gated in Pak­istan, the men were able to es­cape pun­ish­ment as they were "for­given" by her. Un­der this con­tro­ver­sial pro­vi­sion of Is­lamic law, men who kill their fe­male rel­a­tives are able to avoid pun­ish­ment if they are "par­doned" by the vic­tim or her fam­ily fol­low­ing the pay­ment of blood money. This law is of­ten, if not al­ways, mis­used and ends up sav­ing per­pe­tra­tors who have com­mit­ted hor­ren­dous crimes.

The num­ber of es­ti­mated honor killing cases re­ported in Pak­istan ap­prox­i­mate around one thou­sand per year, how­ever, it is to be noted that most cases are kept un­der the wraps. Thus, the fig­ures are not wholly ac­cu­rate and the ac­tual num­bers are be­lieved to be quite stag­ger­ing. Fe­males are mer­ci­lessly mur­dered by their male rel­a­tives if they are be­lieved to have en­gaged in any act which could have pos­si­bly brought "dis­honor" to the fam­ily, for in­stance: elop­ing - as in Saba's case. Un­for­tu­nately, most women who are vic­tims of this bar­bar­ity are met with a dif­fer­ent fate than that of Saba as most un­for­tu­nately do not sur­vive. Had Saba not tilted her head, the bul­let would have pen­e­trated her skull, killing her in­stantly.

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