In Pakistan, honor killings are frequent enough to the point that over 1,000 women die every year at the hands of their families and loved ones. Why? These women wanted to choose the person they marry. On May 27, a 25-year-old pregnant woman named Farzana Parveen was killed on the court steps.

Among Parveen’s attackers were her father, brothers and former fiancé, all throwing bricks at her as she fell to the ground. In Pakistan, it has always been thought to be dishonorable for a woman to marry a man of her choosing. This act shames her family and takes away her right to love her husband.

This is not absurdly uncommon in Pakistan. Parveen is not the first woman to die for her choices. Most often these honor killings happen when the woman decides against following the rules presented to her and engages in extramarital affairs, or in Parveen’s case, secretly marrying a different man.

Due to this, very few of these cases reach court and are typically dismissed if the victim’s family forgives the killer. In Parveen’s case, these two parties are the same people so it is unlikely that further action will occur.

For centuries, women have been the lesser gender in countries such as Pakistan. This sexual inequality still plagues many nations today, and little is being done to rectify the many wrongs committed against women. It is unheard of for a woman to make her own choice of husband and rebellion against that has dire consequences. The Aurat Foundation has compiled police reports, citing around 1,000 cases drawn from newspaper reports. However, it is highly likely that the number is much higher than recorded due to the lack of reporting and national statistics.

Groups like Aurat are human rights organizations that fight for legislation in Pakistan to improve the lives of women and of the poor.

Pakistan’s legal system does little to stop this abuse, because families will pick one member to do the killing and then forgive them, setting them free while following Pakistani law. This flaw leads to no fear of consequence with the killing, therefore discouraging women from speaking out against the injustice.

Most often, victims of these honor killings—like Farzana Parveen—are women from lower income families and have little means to leave their family so they become entrenched in the expected lifestyle, marrying the men presented to them with no argument.

Due to the situation of Pakistan and their ongoing fights with women’s rights, it is unlikely these events will come to an end without any international attention or rebellion within. For such ingrained behaviors, changing them will take time and widespread advocacy for those who suffer.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, Tribune, Washington Post
Photo: The Guardian