A CRIME THAT OFTEN GOES UNREPORTED
A Challenge to the law-enforcement agencies
Violence against women is not confined to our country only rather it is prevalent in almost all countries of the world. The worst kind of such violence is ‘honour killing’. It is termed Siyahkari in Balochistan, Tor Tora in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Karo Kari in Sindh and Kala Kali in Punjab. On the accusation of illicit relationship, men and women are killed; the latter forming an overwhelming majority of victims. Reaction to this violence is silence, in most cases.
Significance of dealing with this crime has no parallel in the overall administration of justice because it often goes unreported. This is, perhaps, one of those heinous offences in which the persons who should, otherwise, have been the complainants in the very case, turn to be the killers of their family member, and their interest lies in either not reporting the case or reporting it as an accidental murder so that the case may be withdrawn later by some self-installed complainants.
The difficulties don’t end up even after the crime of honour killing is reported and a case registered thereupon at a police station. Then, there is the stage of investigation or collection of evidence where no one would be willing to give statement about the actual cause of death. So, after the stage of reporting and information, investigation of the case is the real challenge for the police.
Why honour killings go unreported?
This crime is unique for the reason that killers are generally in blood relation with the victim. The very crime is committed by family members whose interest does not lie in the reporting of the case. For the purpose of hiding the crime from police eyes, they show to the community that the death was natural. They even weep over dead body just to stage a drama to befool the community and hide the case from police.
Even if some from the community notice that the death was not natural, they do not come forward to report and become witness as they think it to be an internal matter of the family. Moreover, they fear reaction and retaliation from the family of the women killed in the name of honour. Another very common mindset is that the lady has been killed in the name of honour, and the deceased herself has contributed to her murder by doing something not acceptable to her family.
If it becomes inevitable to report the crime, the perpetrators install their own complainant to lodge the First Information Report (FIR), and the fact of honour killing is not made part of its contents, rather it is given the colour of accidental murder or murder caused due to domestic conflict. On some later stage, the very case is withdrawn by the installed complainant belonging to the same family.
Unfortunately, there are scant chances of conviction if the case is registered in this way as there is no one to provide evidence of the killing. The collection of evidence, when no one is willing to provide it voluntarily to the police, then, becomes a cumbersome task.
Cause of honour killing
The grave crime of honour killing is committed when a woman and a man are witnessed in compromising situation or when the killer thinks that such illicit relationship exists. According to different studies conducted by UNICEF, many women are killed on the basis of mere suspicion.
It seems pertinent to mention here that Islam gives a woman the right to marry out of her own free will with a man of her choosing. But, in our society, unfortunately, the very right seems to have been taken away. Not only the very right has been taken away but also it is considered an act of defiance from the so-called values of society and such acts are taken as to disgrace the honour of the family; consequently, the exercise of very right on the part of woman causes the honour killing.
Position of karo kari before amendment to section 302 PPC
The recent amendment made, in 2005, to Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) section 302, which enunciates severe punishment for karo kari cases, has rectified the legal position. Before the passing of this amendment, courts and society had very lenient view of honour killings, and mitigated punishments were awarded to the perpetrators of this heinous crime. Earlier, the honour killing was a compoundable offence. Therefore, there was an increase in the cases of honour killings.
Current legal status of honour killing cases
The punishment for honour killing cases has been provided in section 302 of PPC which reads: “Whoever commits qatl-i-amd shall subject to the provision of this chapter (chapter # XVI of PPC) be:
(a) punished with death as qisas;
(b) punished with death for imprisonment for life as ta’zir having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, if the proof in either of the forms specified in Section 304 is not available; or
(c) punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to twenty-five years, where, according to the Injunctions of Islam, the punishment of qisas is tot applicable.
Provided that nothing in this clause shall apply to the offence of qatl-i-amd if committed in the name, or on the pretext of, honour and the same shall fall within the ambit of clause (a) or clause (b) as the case may be.”
The proviso has been added to the very section in 2005 amendment (The Criminal Law Amendment Act I of 2005) which qualifies that severe punishment as stated in clause (a) and (b) be provided to honour killing cases, and the mitigated punishment as stated in clause (c) cannot be provided to karo kari cases.
Age of victims
Honour killings are not age-specific. From a child girl of 14 years to an elder woman of 60 years can be a victim of this crime. However, most of the victims are the young women. According to a survey conducted by Sindh Journalists Network for Children (SJN) for UNICEF, 48 percent of those killed were of the age between 15 and 20 years — keeping in view the crime data of 2013. This survey was prepared on the basis of honour killing cases reported by community members interviewed. Victims above the age of 40 years were 6 percent as per the findings of the very survey.
Who commits the offence?
Almost all the male members of a family consider themselves the owners and custodians of the women of their family; especially the husband, father and brother show more vigour and assert their role as a guardian of women. Therefore, in honour killing cases, these closely- related male family members turn to be the killers of the women as they feel their honour was trampled on. According to SJN survey, in 51% cases of honour killing, husband of the woman turned out to be the killer; 19% killers were brothers of women; 5 % were fathers; and the rest included uncles, cousins and others.
Role of Jirgas
If one evaluates and examines the rules, regulations, codes and verdicts of jirgas, which play their role in deciding the kari cases, one can conclude that there is sufficient negative impact of tribal jirgas on the very cases as they are not only in contrast to the legal provisions but also clearly encourage the killings in the name of honour as these killings get a justification and the killers are declared the aggrieved party. Compensation is ensured and protection from law and law-enforcement agencies is provided to the killers. There is a dire need of prevention of jirga settlements relating to the cases of honour killings.
Here are some recommendations in this regard, which would address the following two questions:
1. How to prevent honour killings; and
2. How to get such cases reported, if it happens
Traditions and cultural values are certainly a great socio-cultural wealth for any nation. However, some of them have been historically proved to be inhuman with dangerous consequences for the human beings as education and awareness increased in the world. The very custom of honour killings is one of them. Any tribal jirga that legitimates such killings should be dealt by the police with iron hands.
It is further recommended that all steps be taken to implement the law on domestic violence; it is not an internal domestic issue but a matter of implementing the laws of the state.
If law is allowed to take its own course, and justice is done to the killed one and the accused party, it acts as deterrence for others; thus fair investigation after due registration of cases is a kind of prevention also.
It is also the need of the hour that the police are trained properly to tackle such complaints; if women are properly handled at police station, it encourages them to report such offences.
The role of district intelligence branch (DIB) working in DPO/SSP office cannot be ruled out in this regard. They have their own intelligence setup in each police station, and informers in the society. They have their own mechanism of information collection. SHO may have his own informers. Moreover, the gravedigger (gorkan) may be helpful in this regard. In this case, the death of every young healthy girl creates doubt in every rational mind; the very aspect should not be overlooked by local police. Lady health workers may prove very important source of information for the police because they visit each and every house of the locality and know each girl by name.
Police liaison with media persons and civil society may prove useful in information collection and collection of evidence at investigation stage.
It is also a sad fact that the police have very rarely been friendly to women. It is very difficult for women to get registered their FIRs; whenever they try to get registered a case against their cruel and abusive husband; they are contemptuously returned to their homes.
There is a need to inculcate the sense of justice among the police officers for the lady killed in the name of honour, and it lies in the police training institutes to impart moral training to the police officers.
Moreover, women’s desks at police stations should be established. Both male and female police personnel need to be trained to deal with the complaints of violence against women in a gender sensitive manner. At least one trained woman police officer should be present at each police station to deal with the specific problems of women complainants.
Women have not enough awareness about their rights; that’s why they remain silent on the acts of injustices with them or other their close female relatives. It is suggested that a comprehensive legal awareness be launched for women. This would encourage them to come forward and report the very crimes.
Shelter homes for women who feel threat of being killed in the name of honour , are suggested to be established at Tehsil level. They may be set up in collaboration with NGOs to provide protection, legal aid and psychological counseling for women in crisis. Such existing services should be widely publicized.
Last but not least, the basic cause is existing illiteracy among the masses. Consequently, people remain prisoners of patriarchal, feudal and tribal thinking. There is not only need of reforming the formal educational system but also need of launching some programmes of informal education and awareness in the form of workshops, seminars and literacy programmes at the local level particularly in the rural areas of Pakistan.
The writer is a civil servant, belonging to the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP).