Honour Killing: Seeing Humans as Mere Property

Honour Killing Collage

(Naseer Ahmed)

According to Honour Based Violence Network 5000 honour killing happens all over the world per year. Out of these 5000 honour killings, 2000 honour killings happen in India and Pakistan.

These figures could not express the sorrow experienced by the victims and the people who love them. But facts and figures are important because they could change the hearts and minds of social policy makers, legislators, media and general public.

That said but everything depends upon who we have been talking about this heinous crime to? It is easy to change minds and hearts which give importance to sufferings and evidence connected to those sufferings. On the other hand it is tough to change those minds and hearts which refuse to listen. When it comes to honour killings , honour killings and refusal to listen come from same kind of stuff.

Where does honour killing come from in Pakistan? It comes from a sadistic disrespect of individual and individual choices about life. It comes from mysticism, it comes from a culture based upon that mysticism and it comes from a state trying to have a total control over its people.

This desire to have total control over an individual is the heart and life of most crimes in Pakistan including honour killings. This total control over an individual is a project which cannot survive without suspension of compassion and ethics. When suspension of compassion and ethics become widespread, the society begins to support this total control. This way the total control becomes a kind of widespread project. This prevalence of the total control makes it acceptable. That makes it really tough to reform a culture that accepts this total control.

The sad fact is that people become personal property in such cultures. But people are not property. Some of them have this strong sense of not being property.  They refuse to behave like personal property. They suffer due to honour attached to property.

The society and the state groom individuals to surrender themselves to something higher than themselves. Many families follow both the society and the state in grooming their children in this same way. When individuals surrender themselves to something higher than themselves like family, religion, state, ideologies and culture, they become worthy people in the eyes of the self styled representatives of these abstract ideas. But when they try to pursue their desires, they lose the respect of these powerful self styled representatives of higher realities.

This loss of respect results in suspension of their humanity by these self styled representatives of so called higher truths and protectors of such higher truths. This loss of respect opens the opportunities to inflict pain upon these traitors to above mentioned truths or realities.

Here, we are in the world of ‘they had it coming’. This attitude is stronger than laws because this attitude has more support in the society than laws. Supported by such higher causes like family, religion, ideology and culture, these self styled protectors of honour commit all kinds of crimes without worrying too much about accountability.

In fact this complex system of total control has taken a shape where every good thing in life is cancelled by some higher reality. For example, both democratic laws and Islam give a woman the right to choose her husband. The culture cancels it by supporting the total control of a parent over her daughter in the name of honour.

This version of honour lies in total surrender of personal wishes in order to please a parent. The daughter refuses to surrender the wishes both laws and religion guarantee her. The mother murders her using dodge and deceit. Now another Islamic law might save the mother which allows this murdering mother to pardon the murderer of her daughter. That means she would pardon herself.

She forgives herself and she does not feel any guilt because she has dispatched a traitor to family and culture to death. It does not matter whether the traitor was her own daughter. Thus total control sorts out the guilt about murder. That mother was doing a higher deed which ordinary people have no courage to do.

It is not easy to reform such laws that deny human rights because every self styled representative and protector of higher truths would scream loudly that it is treachery when public tries to come out of this total control in the name of religious honour. Eventually, it becomes an Ummah question. In this sentimental system, the facts and figures don’t matter much.

The best way to eradicate honour killing is to stop using piety as a fraud in order to have absolute control over other humans. It is simple. There is no higher reality that allows a mother to kill her daughter because she disagrees to her daughter’s marriage choice. Similarly, there is no higher reality that allows anybody treating other people as personal property. Moreover, there is no higher truth that declares superiority of men to women.

These beliefs on higher reality are not based on knowledge. They are opinions and assertions of the ignorant that cause so much pain and sorrow to so many people. In order to sort out pain and sorrow caused by ignorance and injustice, we must come to knowledge.

It is one of the best way to honour knowledge that we formulate laws and policies based upon facts and figures. The facts and figures express it strongly that it is time to drop those laws which protect murderers. The facts and figures show it clearly that we must ensure through legislation and implementation of legislation that honour killers are punished by law.

Besides, we could reduce these crimes through reforming our culture. We need to show the world real meanings of honour in order to destroy these illusions about honour which lead people towards murder and mayhem.

The real honour is not in slavery, the real honour is in freedom. And for freedom, we need to respect individual choices about marriages, friendships and other relations.

We also need to disconnect the social support to these misplaced notions about honour. Honour lies in attempts to stop these so called honour killings. Honour lies in liberty and difference of opinion. Honour lies in fighting for the rights of fellow beings. Honour lies in democracy, not in dictatorship. Honour lies in respecting fellow beings. And above all , the best source of ensuring honour is knowledge.