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Anti honor killing legislation needs improvements

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Opposition to it not driven by ideology but by anti-women bias of ideology brigade

Islamabad December 15, 2016: Senator Farhatullah Babar has said that although the recently passed Anti honour killing was an important legislation as it closed the door of acquittal through the law there still were some issues that needed to be addressed. He was addressing students at the Quaid-e Azam University Thursday morning on the current legislation and way forward.

The positive side is that the new legislation ensures that even if the entire family of the victim pardoned the murderer will still face a mandatory 25 years jail term without any remission. But the downside is how to establish a murder as ‘honour’ killing, he said.

If the perpetrator claimed that the murder was for other reasons it will make the crime compoundable and killer will be promptly pardoned under the Qisas law. A heavy burden has been placed on the shoulders of investigators, prosecutors and the judge to disprove the murderer and hold it as a case of ‘honour killing’.

He said that the underlying principle in the concept of Qisas is to save a human life under death sentence and not to condone the crime itself.

So even if the compoundable provision of Qisas were to be applied it should be applicable only after the trial has commenced,  the charges framed and proved in a court of law and the murderer has been awarded capital punishment and not before the completion of this cycle.

What has been happening is that instead of following the full procedure a compromise is made and the heirs of the victim pardon the murderer in a scenario in which both the victim and the murderer are represented by the same person.

No wonder that murderers have literally walked out of the lock ups within weeks, not only without conviction but even without any trial, he said.

He said that it is time the legislature and political parties gave a serious thought to the recommendations made last year by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCS) proposing several amendments to the Qisas and Diyat law.

He said that according to an estimate over 2770 women were killed during the five year period from 2008, making an average of over 500 murders in a year in addition to un-reported cases as well as the number of men also killed alongside women in the name of honour.

He said that despite closing the door of acquittal through the law it will take quite some time to close the door through the society as well.

In an environment in which bodies like the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) publicly declare that men may beat their wives, refuse to accept DNA tests in rape cases and reject legislation against child marriages and forced conversions the door through the society to acquit honor killers will not be completely shut, he said.

Shutting this door requires that we revisit the role and purpose of the ideology Council as well as strengthen the Commission on Status of Women.

Traditionally resistance to make honour crime a non-compoundable offence has been spearheaded by the religious lobby on grounds of ideology but it is a self-serving argument, he said.

The original anti honour murder bill that made honour murders totally non compoundable was approved unanimously across the party divide by the Senate Committee on interior that was headed by a JUI F Senator.

Subsequently it was also passed in the plenary session of Senate unanimously. JUI-F members including its stalwart the Deputy Chairman Senate all voted for it. But objections were raised by them at the time when the Bil came up before the joint session, he said.

Furthermore, the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance and the Anti-Terror laws also do not allow compounding the crime of murder he said.  The rejection of the original anti honour killing bill therefore had nothing to do with ideology. Perhaps the opposition to it is motivated by pathological anti-woman bias of the ideology lobby, he said.

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