The brutality and rapid succession of killings horrified many Pakistanis. The numbers of such killings have climbed in lockstep with their sometimes-public spectacle. Last year, three people a day were killed in “honour” crimes in Pakistan: a total of 1,096 women and 88 men, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. In 2014, the number was 1,005 women, including 82 children, up from 869 women killed a year earlier. The true numbers are believed to be higher, with many cases going unreported, activists say.
Some human rights and women’s rights activists believe honour killings have been inching up and showing greater brutality as the older generation tries to dig in against creeping change. Over the years, more women have been going to school and working outside the home, even among lower and lower middle class, and use of social media has helped women raise their voices.
“The old order of misogyny and extremism is falling apart, is really crumbling,” says Marvi Sermid, a political commentator and women’s rights activist. Conservative Muslim clerics are furious over the creeping change and are fighting back with regressive changes targeting women, she said.
The changes are a serious challenge to the status quo in Pakistan, where centuries of tradition and culture have tied the idea of a woman as a pristine and untouched commodity to a family’s honour. Deeply conservative traditions have been further strengthened by decades of governments and military dictators who have often curried the support of religious hard-liners with legislation enshrining the old ways.
But more than 70 per cent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are under 30, and among the younger, more tech-savvy generation, some are vocally challenging the traditions of their elders to an unprecedented degree.
One will forgive me if I find that scarcely credible.
Until the ideology that fuels these murders is stopped, these murders will not stop.