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Acid Violence: Consuming Humanity

A form of violent assault, acid attack is formally defined as the act of throwing acid into the body of someone else with the intentions of disfiguring or injuring out of jealousy or revenge. The statistics show that more than eighty percent of the acid attack victims all over the world are women and children. Although quite prevalent even in states of America and other developed nations, acid violence seems to be almost unique to the Africa and South Asia region with most incidents happening in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
These acid attacks happen all over the world but are notably more prevalent in Cambodia and India as well due to the cheap prices and easy availability of acid.A large number of Indian households use concentrated acid to sterilize their kitchens and bathrooms, as Americans use bleach.
The studies carried out across the world have revealed that most of these acid attacks are used as punishing measures towards women who have refused to accede to the commands of the men. These acid attacks are used as tools against the women who have in general stood against the atrocities of men. The effect of these acid attacks on their lives has been destructive and these women are often forced to face social isolation and ostracism from their community. The physical and psychological trauma of such incidents is enormous and long-lasting. A large number of these acid attack victims also develop suicidal tendencies due to the fear of rejection and agony of living forever with these marks.
The results of these acid attacks are heinous. The acid generally eats through the skin and bone of the victims, leaving burn marks which can permanently disfigure, maim and kill them. Apart from personal reasons like family disputes, estranged lovers and domestic violence, these attacks are also widely used to mar the physical attractiveness of women in a lot of cases.
With the world moving towards complete transformation into a technological hub where men and women are given equal rights and opportunities to grow as a career oriented professional, it is gruesome to see that such heinous acts of crime are like a slap on the face of development.
Of the total registered cases of acid attacks, a large percentage is contributed by domestic violence and family disputes. It has been observed that in a lot of cases, men have attacked their wives with acid when they simply refused to succumb to their demands such as throwing themselves into prostitution to fend for money and refusing to give their consent for the second marriage of their husband.

“I screamed in pain. Acid burns immediately. It is like when you light a piece of paper and how fast the flames consume it. That is how the acid works. It moves inside, consuming you.” woman in Uganda who was a victim of acid attack recalled her memories.

In India, a large number of cases of acid attacks have been the result of love relationships gone sour. Often, a large number of rejected lovers tend to take up to this crime when they feel that the girl they love is not responding accordingly or has out rightly rejected their proposal. The fear of seeing the one you desire going up with someone else is something which takes the human out of the person’s mind.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan majority of women faced acid attacks as part of their domestic violence sufferings. Countless women have faced the horror of this in human acts of violence at the hands of their husbands and in laws. These incidents have not only ruined the lives of victim but also affect many others of the same gender psychologically.
The terror of acid in most these victimised regions are such that women now feel insecure to their very life and safety whether they are alone or at home.
This has also been observed that a large number of these cases remain unregistered and therefore a lot of victims fail to receive any help from the concerned agencies. In a large number of such cases, due to acute scarcity of money, these victims don’t even get proper medical treatment and have to live with this agony for the remaining parts of their lives.
Apart from the fear of being burnt and disfigured, perhaps the most dangerous thing about these acid attacks is the fear that is created by these attacks. Some time back, a case was reported in Afghanistan, where some bikers had thrown acid on a group of school going girls to create havoc and to send across a clear message to their parents to keep their daughters at home. Backed by Taliban, this attack was largely condemned all over the world.
It is high time that the people around the world should realise that they are humans and not mere animals who can kill or slaughter anyone else to fulfil their own petty interests or to avenge something which could simply be overlooked as something extremely trivial.
Besides, it needs to understood by men that women, often known as the fairer sex, are not mere toys to seek pleasure and be thrown once used. They are also human, who have equal intellectuality as men. This should now be accepted by people that women can actually contribute a lot to the development of the households and society at large and that they should be given equal opportunities like men. Not merely chopped and burnt when desired!
On behalf of the entire team of The Oslo Times, I strongly criticise these acid attacks that have tarnished the fabric of humanity all over the world and request to the authorities and influential people in various regions to come forward and help these women whose life is being spoilt by this act of tyranny by some inhuman cluster of people.
The governments around the world should banned and regulate the retailing of such harmful and destructive chemicals which are being sale openly in the consumer market and are easily available to any common person without any check or purpose. We should by all means try and make this world a better place to live in, not a hell where nothing good can be expected.

My words and my answer to those who hate me

I am a brave person with a power of confidence and knowledge who have always accepted risk in his life and I have enjoyed standing against extremism. Do what you want to do, do whatever you can do. I am a lion whose nature is to die like a soldier and live like a leader.

A Wife who killed her Husband

Samarinda, East Kalimantan

December 20, 2011

Marsih, An employee of Resort City Police Samarinda, East Kalimantan, poured by gasoline and burned her own husband. She suffered burns up to 60 percent. The act was done in front of the child victim. It was done by Sumantri because he is reluctant to divorce from his wife. Not only Marsih,Sumantri also affected by a bolt of fire and suffered 40 percent burns. Both were treated at the Islamic Hospital Samarinda. Currently the police are still asking the details number of witnesses from the family. Perpetrator closely guarded for fear of escape.

Domestic Violence

Based on Act No. 23 of 2004 on the Elimination of Domestic Violence Law of Indonesia; domestic violence  is any action against a person, especially women, which result in misery or suffering physical, sexual, psychological, and / or negligence of household including threat to commit acts, coercion, or deprivation of liberty against the law within the domestic sphere.

Elimination of Domestic Violence Law was born through a long struggle for about seven years conducted the women’s movement activists of the share element.  In Indonesia, a formal legally, these provisions come into force since 2004. The mission of this Act is an effort, endeavor for the elimination of domestic violence. With this provision, means the state could attempt to prevent the occurrence of domestic violence, prosecution of domestic violence and protect victims of domestic violence.

Something that previously could not happen, because it is considered as an internal matter of one’s family. The reason is expressly said that, the action physical violence, psychological, sexual, and neglect of household (economic abandonment) done within the domestic sphere is a crime. These actions may be common and can occur between the husband to his wife and vice versa, or parents against their children. As legislation that requires special arrangements, in addition to criminal sanctions contained setting, this law also regulates the procedural law, the obligation of the state in providing immediate protection to victims who report. Thus, it can be said that this provision is an important legal breakthrough for efforts to uphold human rights, especially protection against those who have been harmed in a family or household order.

In numbers, wives who are victims of domestic violence was 96 percent, of the total 136 thousand more cases of violence in personal relationships. The pattern is dominated by domestic violence sexual and psychological violence. While physical violence is smaller in number under the economic violence. Violence against women also occurs during courtship, violence by ex-husband or ex-boyfriend, and against domestic workers. Violence against women as whole rise 263 percent to 143.586 cases during 2009 (January to December).

Causes of domestic violence

In Indonesia, domestic violence is difficult to resolve, it is because many people who do not know that their actions or action that they are received from their partner is included in domestic violence, and perpetrators may also feel that his actions were protected by the prevailing norms in society, that is not polite when intervene in the household of others when there are fights (internal matter). This norm has indirectly led to the perpetrator feel protected from state laws when they are apply to domestic violence.

It also can cause by:

1) The public raising boys by growing confidence that the boys should be strong, brave and intolerant.
2) Men and women are not positioned equally in society.

3) Perceptions of violence in the household must be closed because it is a family problem and not a social problem.

4) an erroneous understanding of religious teachings about the rules educate wives, wives to their husbands obedience, respect for the position of her husband resulting in the perception that men should control women.

5) Culture that wife relies on her husband, especially economics.

6) Personality and psychological conditions of husband who is not stable.

7) Have experienced violence in childhood.

8) Culture that men are considered superior and women inferior.

9) Doing imitation, especially the boys who live with parents who often do violence to his mother or himself.

Effort to recover the victims on domestic violence

Elimination of Domestic Violence Law is the first regulation governing the rights of victims. Rights of victims of domestic violence in the Elimination of Domestic Violence Law  in Article 10 which include the following:

1. protection of the family, police, prosecutors, courts, advocates, social institutions, or any other party either temporarily or based on the determination of a court protection order;

2. Health services in accordance with medical needs;

3. Special handling related to the confidentiality of the victim;

4. Assistance by social workers and legal assistance at every level of the examination process in accordance with the provisions of legislation; and

5. Spiritual guidance services.

Efforts to prevent domestic violence are a mutual obligation between the government and society. This corresponds to a locus of domestic violence in the private sphere, so the government cannot simply go in and monitor the household directly. And so we need community involvement in monitoring and preventing the occurrence of domestic violence in the neighborhood. The obligation of this community accommodated in articles 14 and 15 of Elimination of Domestic Violence Law. Even in chapter 15 are detailed on duty “every person who heard, saw, or know the occurrence of domestic violence shall make efforts in accordance with the limit of his ability to a) prevent the continuation of crime; b) provide protection to victims; c) to provide relief emergency; and d) assist the application process protection setting.

Article 44 of Law Number 23 Year 2004 on domestic violence.

  1. Anyone committing acts of violence,  physical within the domestic sphere as referred to in Article 5 letter a shall be punished with imprisonment of 5 (five) years or a maximum fine of Rp 15,000,000.00 (fifteen million rupiahs).
  2. In the event that acts as referred to in paragraph (1) resulted in the victim had fallen ill or serious injury, shall be punished with imprisonment of 10 (ten) years or a fine of not more Rp30.000.000, 00 (thirty million rupiahs).
  3. In the event that acts as referred to in paragraph (2) resulted in the death of the victim, shall be punished with imprisonment of 15 (fifteen) years or a maximum fine of Rp 45,000,000.00 (forty five million rupiahs).

It not only happens in Indonesia but even in developed and advance countries like Australia recently Rajini Narayan who killed her husband by burning first his penis and then him completely. Have a look at the full story what had gone between them and male who think himself always superior and powerful to woman. However it seems like slowly but gradually women are claiming their rights which they could have claimed much earlier.

A woman who burned her husband to death after “snapping momentarily” has become the third battered wife in seven years to avoid jail for manslaughter in Australian court history.

The Supreme Court today suspended Rajini Narayan’s six-year sentence for killing her cheating husband, Satish, in December 2008.

Justice John Sulan said the killing was due to “momentary” anger and “muddled” thinking, and that Narayan was truly remorseful for her actions.

“Although it is often said … that a suspended sentence is not a sentence at all, it’s a real sentence and can be brought into effect if there is a failure to comply with specified conditions,” he said.

“It is wrong to regard suspended sentences as letting an offender walk free as if he or she has not been punished.

“It seems (Narayan) has suffered a great deal already.”

Narayan, who sat with her back to the public gallery for much of the hearing, fought back tears as the sentence was announced.

Her eldest daughter ran to the front of the court room to embrace and kiss her mother.

Narayan, 46, is the third woman in seven years to avoid an immediate jail term for manslaughter.

In 2004, Riverland woman Gwenda Elaine Savcic received a suspended three-year term for killing her husband, Mark.

Savcic fatally stabbed her husband with a samurai sword after silently enduring 19 years of abuse at his hands.

Justice Ted Mullighan ruled the stabbing – the first time Savcic had ever stood up to her husband – was an act of “excessive self-defence”.

In 2009, Noreen Jessamine Weetra received a suspended five-year term for killing her partner, Ross Owen Calyun.

Police had been called to the couple’s home 10 times in three years before Weetra struck back, stabbing Calyun in the heart in front of her children.

Justice Margaret Nyland dubbed her actions “rare and exceptional”, and therefore deserving of a “merciful approach” in sentencing.

Narayan stood trial in the Supreme Court for murder last year.

Prosecutors had alleged she deliberately set her husband, Satish, alight in December 2008 after confronting him about his affair.

Narayan denied this, saying her intention was to “circumcise and purify” her husband  who had physically and verbally abused her for 22 years.

She said she wanted to “burn a dot on his penis” with petrol and an “angel candle” she had been given by a fortune teller so that he would not leave her for the other woman.

She compared her “bizarre” idea to the Hindu love story of Lord Ram, who proved the purity of his wife, Sita, with fire after rescuing her from a demon king.

“It would be like circumcision, or just like he placed that red dot on my forehead at the wedding,” she said at trial.

“It was like I had all the powers of the goddess to save my husband, my lord … it did not occur to me that it was going to be dangerous.”

Narayan admitted losing control and throwing the flame and accelerant onto Satish when he called her a “fat bitch”.

Jurors accepted her version of events, acquitting her of murder and finding her guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

In sentencing today, Justice Sulan said Narayan had “deified” her husband and was “shattered” by his betrayal.

He said there was “no doubt” her thinking at the time was “unrealistic, muddled and illogical”.

“For the first time in your life you had confronted your husband, had found the courage to be assertive to the person who had mistreated you for 20 years,” he said.

“His response was to treat you with disdain, dismiss you and turn his back to you (and) you snapped.”

Justice Sulan further ordered Narayan be under Correctional Services supervision for two years, and undertake psychological counseling as ordered.

As woman is becoming more aware and man are becoming more brutal and unforgiving the silence of her soul has now reached at the point of final eruption where now the hidden dark side of once this magnificent human being has now showing her dark side. Man and Woman are just like two sides of one coin and have remained till date but neither of them has ever appreciated or complemented each other. The narrow mind set and venerable behavior of man develops a quality of a deep anger and an uncompromising behavior whereas fear of losing and possessiveness have made woman more reserve and of conservative behavior but as the world becomes more aware of its rights and responsibilities woman too are becoming more open minded and are being more aggressive towards their aims and their self being. This has evolved new twisted positions in the un-balanced relations of opposite genders.

These cases are the new signs of beginning of a new era where woman shares the power in this male dominant world.


Love Burns; Bride burning

My mother-in-law used to say that my husband was too educated for me, that he didn’t get a fair dowry, said Bhargava, who now lives alone in a New Delhi slum.

It first started with emotional and verbal abuse that escalated into physical when her husband and mother-in-law scalded her with boiling water. Desperate and with no choice, Bhargava dowsed herself in kerosene and set herself on fire. 40% of her body was burned. “I miss my daughter and fear the evil that may befall her. Though I passed these times, somehow, to my children I am dead,” she said.

These men marry their wife’s “until death do us part”, and they make that happen too. After being condemned and banned, bride burning is still alive and well in India. The practice is used because it’s the most effective way to cover the crime. The family members can basically call it an “accident” or “suicide” since the fire destroys all evidence. Most of the burn victims gets infection and rarely survive so that prosecution is not needed.

One reason is that divorce is equal to shame in many societies and stains the family honour. To become a widow is better than having a divorce.

Pay up or else…

Dowry murder has become a lucrative business for greedy in-laws and husbands. The dowry may be paid and the family receiving it may be happy at the time, but they usually change their mind afterwards. If the bride’s parents won’t or can’t pay more, the bride is victimized. After abusing her, the in-laws usually end the problem by deciding to kill her in cold blood so that the son can remarry and get more dowry from another family. Legal attempts have been made to eradicate the dowry system from 1939 but the practice is still continuing. In 1989 an amendment of criminal law was passed stating;

One man’s death is another man’s bread

Dowry first originated in the upper class families as a wedding gift to the bride from the family. Then the dowry was meant as a help with marriage expenses and became insurance in case if the in-laws terrorized her. The groom often demands a dowry consisting of a large sum of money, farm animals, land, furniture or electronics.

In the Indian subcontinent, including Bangladesh and Pakistan it is reported that “dowry death”, often called “bride burning”, happens once every 100 minutes and there are between 4,000 and 25,000 victims. As bizarre as it may seem, yes, married women are murdered by their husband or their in-laws for the financial opportunities available once the bride is dead.

The theory behind the dowry is that the putative husband is taking over the responsibility of the bride’s family and as she has little value on her own, a dowry must accompany her to make the marriage worthwhile for the groom.

The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 makes it a criminal offence to both give and receive a dowry but the custom and traditions are so deeply rooted that it is still ongoing. After the wedding, demands will be made during the marriage that the original dowry was insufficient and additional dowry is required. The wife’s demise means the husband can keep his wife’s dowry and marry a second time with dowry if not get rid of her and then remarry.

While this horrific domestic abuse is against the law, India’s patriarchal society, including its police and Courts of Law, have not taken this inhumane violence as seriously as they need to. An amendment to India’s criminal law was finally enacted in 1986 which reads:

“where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of marriage and it is shown that immediately before her death she was harassed and put to cruelty by her husband or any relative of her husband in connection with demand for dowry, such death shall be called as “dowry death”.

It is estimated that at least one woman dies in related act of violence every hour in India. Some are set on fire, some are hanged, and some are fed poison or sleeping tablets. Most of these cases are not investigated as homicide by the police but are written off as accidents or suicides.

However, Indias National Crime Records showed that there were 8,172 dowry deaths’s including suicides in 2008 and less than 10% had been investigated. In India having a female is such a burden now because of dowry that many people are aborting female fetus’s because of the risk and toile it takes on one’s family safety and financial situation. Link

A 85 year old woman and her elder son were sentenced to life imprisonment including a fine on Rs 12,000 each for burning alive her younger son’s wife for failing to fulfill her dowry demands in India.  Their conviction came on the basis of the bride’s dying declaration where she told that her mother and brother-in-law used to harass and beat her for not fulfilling their demand of bringing a motorcycle and a television dowry.

22 October 2008, one day before the murder, the mother-in-law Husan and her elder son Nasim had beaten Gulnaz for failing to bring dowry. The next day when Gulnaz woke up, Husan picked a fight with her while Nasim doused her with kerosene oil and set her ablaze.  Her husband Nasuriddun and their nephew ran in hearing her cries trying to extinguish the fire. They took her to a nearby hospital where she died 2 months later.  The duo defended them by saying that they were not home and that the victim had caught fire accidently while she was igniting the stove to warm food for her husband.

While in Pakistan, divorce is possible but some families prefer murder rather than to divorce them. It is difficult to imagine how someone can kill their wife, the mother of their child over money or simply because they are no longer wanted. In many of these cases, the police are told that the victim was killed by an exploding stove and there will usually not be any persecution. Doctors however have reported that the injuries of many of the victims are not consistent with stove burns.

 

Saira Liaqat, 26 holds a portrait of herself before being burnt in Lahore, Pakistan. July 9th, 2998 at the age of 15, Saira was married off to a relative who later attacked her insisting her to live with him although the agreement was that she would move to his house after finishing school. After the attack, Saira have undergone 9 plastic surgery to recover from her scars with the help of Depilex Smile again Foundation in Lahore, an organization that helps burn victims to reintegrate into society through medical and psychological support.

The main problem in Pakistan first of all is the lack of investigation, arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators. Women are seen as property and not given any respect or value what so ever. This is a great shame, because these women are mothers, sisters, daughters and wives. These men’s mother was once a bride, and would they want the same for them? It’s a selfish act from people that has no respect for human life when they not only destroy a innocent person’s life but take the mother away from their children.

More specialized burn units are needed in hospitals and not least a new law that bans this custom and that does not collide with another law so that the perpetrators go free.

Roopa, a tragic story in India

Roopa was 14 when she fell in love with a boy 3-4 years older than her. Her family did not approve of him and wanted her to finish school, however Roopa decided to run away with him. Her family managed to bring her back home twice, the second time with the help of the police but Roopa wanted to marry the boy. Finally her parents relented but wanted nothing to do with the marriage.

Roopa then married the boy with his family’s consent. They also had a registration, where they showed her age as 18, the legal age of marriage without the parent’s consent. However a year later, when her parents visited her to see how she was doing, the in laws made a dowry demand. Her parents refused saying the marriage did not have their consent. More so, Roopa’s father in law is wealthy — and they saw no reason for them to give him more money. After the parents left, the abuse began. Roopa’s mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and husband took turns beating her. She was made to work like a slave for the whole family — cooking, cleaning, etc. Then they started starving her and forcing her to eat their left over’s. By the time she was 15 Roopa was pregnant and after her son was born, the abuse intensified.

Then the family separated the child from her and made plans to get rid of her. She tried to run away on two occasions but was brought back (by other villagers) and severely beaten. The second time they locked her in a room without food for 7 days. When they found out that the neighbors had been sneaking food to her, the mother-in-law, the sister in law and the husband, all together, held her down and forced acid down her throat. They then left the house assuming that she’d be dead by the time they got back.

Miraculously Roopa managed to get out of the house and the neighbors took her to the hospital where she told the doctors what had happened to her. Unbelievable 2 hospitals didn’t want to report this to the police and turned her down while the third was forced to take her in because she had passed out from pain. The in laws in the meantime found out that she had been taken to a hospital and as they were worried about an investigation they actually came to the hospital and paid her expenses for a month, after which the doctors said they could do nothing more and she was taken back to the village where they live.

The suffering continued but her parents had heard about the news. When they came to see her, the in-laws said that she had tried to commit suicide. The next day, her father came back to the village, this time with some male relatives. He knew they would kill his daughter if he didn’t take her out by force. First he tried to file an official complaint (FIR) with the local police but Roopa’s father-in-law was not only wealthy, he was on the village judiciary so the police refused to take the complaint. Roopa’s father then begged the police to help him get his daughter out, he said all he wanted to do was save her. Finally an armed police van was sent to escort him to the village.
Roopa is back with her parents and is now hospitalized and undergoing treatment. The acid had caused a lot of damage to her internal organs and for 3 months she has not been able to consume any food orally. She has to be ‘fed’ through a tube inserted into her stomach and lost a tremendous amount of weight. Her recovery will be a very slow and painful process with continued tests and surgery.

 

A woman is burned to death almost every 12 hours and the dowry murders are increasing. 90% of cases of women burnt were recorded as accidents, five percent as suicide and only the remaining five percent were shown as murder. Despite of bans and laws against it, convictions are rare and judges who usually are men is easily bought off with a nice sum of money.

What should be done?

  • Women and girls must be educated so that they know about their rights and can become economically independent. Then there must be opened more shelters that can provide help and protection for this women. Something that also would be useful is if the shelters would be given authorization to claim on behalf of the victim even if the family refuses to go to court.
  • Children must be educated in morals and ethics so that the younger generations will learn to respect each other and solve conflicts without the act of violence.
  • The media must increase awareness and publicize tragedies to help change the public perception on dowry violence, and for this, the censorship must be free.

Organizations like Amnesty must publicize this so citizens from around the world can be made aware of the situation’s gravity and help support the ban.

Karo-Kari; A twisted mind

Karo-Kari, another menace, another twisted way of murdering people has existed for many years in Pakistan. Various news agencies NGO’s have highlighted the growing problem for years but the government has failed to do something about it.

For those who don’t know what Karo-Kari is, it is a premeditated honour killing which is originated from the rural and tribal areas of Sindh, Pakistan. Karo-Kari is part of cultural tradition in Sindh and is a compound word literally meaning “black male” (Karo) and “black female (Kari), a metaphoric term for adulterer and adulteress. Honour killing has given different names in different regions of Pakistan  as it is named kala-kali in Punjab, tor-tora (KPH), siyahkari in Baluchistan and karo-kari in Sindh.

Once a female is labeled as a Kari, male family members get the self-authorized justification to kill her and the co-accused Karo to restore family honor, although in the majority of cases the victim is female, while the murderers are male. Such “immoral behavior” may take the form of alleged marital infidelity, refusal to submit to an arranged marriage, demanding a divorce, perceived flirtatious behavior and rape. Suspicion and accusations alone are many times enough to defile a family’s honor and therefore enough to warrant the killing of the woman. Women are seen as property with minor or none rights in the communities that the government mainly ignores the daily murders.

Women who are believed to have brought shame and dishonor to their family by engaging in illicit pre-marital or extra-marital relations are targeted. Men who have engaged in sexual activity with the female are also killed but majority is women. In order for the honour to be restored, a male family member must kill the female who is found guilty. What’s outraging is that the victim has absolutely no given opportunity to defend herself and once found guilty, only blood will remove the stain of dishonor. Other violations can be a woman refusing to enter into an arrange marriage, seeking divorce (even from an abusive husband), having relations with a man outside of marriage (sexual or non-sexual), flirting and even if she is the victim of rape. Most of the murders take place because of suspicions, misunderstandings and animosity. It reminds of crime of passion where the husband kills his wife. The accusation comes as a sudden surprise that usually the victims has no opportunity to save their own lives, seek help, find protection from the police or court. And because it usually happens inside the family, the perpetrators get away with paying blood money and forgiving each other.

I believe that this practice is just an bad excuse for getting rid of women, get hold of someone’s land, earning blood money  and to take revenge.

If and when the case reaches a court of law, the victim’s family may ‘pardon’ the murderer (who is usually one of them), or be pressurized to access blood-money as compensation. The murderer then goes free.

Once such a pardon has been secured, the state has no further writ on the matter. Human rights agencies in Pakistan have repeatedly emphasized that women falling prey to Karo-Kari were usually those wanting to marry of their own will. In many cases, the victims held properties that the male members of their families did not wish to lose if the women chose to marry outside the family. More often than not, the Karo-Kari murder relates to inheritance problems, feud-settling or simply to get rid of the woman. The families always say that it was suicide or fatal accident.

Lives claimed

 Unmarked graves of victims

During the first months of 2011, 11 murders took place in Sindh province of Pakistan. 6 women and 5 men were killed.

An unbelievable incident was when a 25 year old man killed his 55 year old mother suspecting her for having a relationship with another man. Begum Khatoon, the mother was sleeping when her son Hussain shot her to death. Hussain and his friends later threw her body 50 meters away from the village. The victim’s brother filed a report at the police station against his nephew and 2 others. The cold blooded killer stated from prison: “I don’t have any regrets for killing my mother because she was kari and deserved punishment”. “I am a man of honour and will not spare the karo, once I am out of the lock-up.”

In April a police constable shot and killed his wife on the pretext of Karo-Kari when he saw her in an objectionable state with her brother-in-law in his house. She was his second wife. The same month, 5 other people were killed for the same reason on 19th and 20th April 2011. Sono Mastoi had been suspecting his wife for having sexual relations with the youths of the area. He first shot his wife and then the 2 boys. There was not performed any post mortem, neither was anyone arrested.

12th April 2011, Farooq accused his wife Mukhtaran for having illicit relations with Asif Unnar, a residedent in the same village. Farooq tried to kill his wife but she managed to escape and hide in her parent’s house. Next day, Farooq went to a landlord, Mohammad Hassan Unnar telling him the story and Mokhammad Hassan gathered a meeting of community elders at his home. The accused Karo, Asif was on the run and the elders ordered that both Karo-Kari should be killed. When Mukhtarans father got the news, he went to the nearby police station and placed a police report against the 9 men, including Farooq and Mohammad Hassan. They were soon arrested.

Saima Bibi, a 21 year old woman was electrocuted by her family because she had secretly married a man they didn’t approve of. Police arrested her father and 3 other relatives after being tipped off from an anonymous caller. Bibi, an ethnic Baluch, defied demands from her family to marry a Baluch relative and instead ran away to the southern port city of Karachi to marry a fellow villager. Her father and several other relatives traveled to Karachi and duped her into coming back home, when she didn’t listen to further demands they electrocuted her, he said. Bibi’s family told police she committed suicide on Friday in their village in the district of Bahawalpur in Punjab, but a medical report showed signs of torture and electrocution on her hands, legs and back, police said.

Another case was that of Taslim Khatoon Solangi, 17, of Hajna Shah village in Khairpur district, which was widely reported after her father, 57-year-old Gul Sher Solangi, publicized the case. He alleged his 8 months’ pregnant daughter was tortured and killed on March 7 on the orders of her father-in-law, who accused her of carrying a child conceived out of wedlock.

Official numbers from the Pakistani Senate showed that more than 4,000 people had been killed in the name of honour the last years as a result of Karo-Kari. Of the victims, almost 2,800 were women and over 1,327 were men. The highest number of murders had happened in Punjab, followed by Sindh, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and the south western province of Baluchistan. Of 2,774 murdered women, 1,578 were killed in Punjab, 751 in Sindh, 260 in NWFP and 185 in Baluchistan. Of the 1,327 murdered men, 675 were killed in Punjab, 348 in Sindh, 188 in NWFP and 116 in Baluchistan. The actual numbers are much higher and many cases go unreported because of loyalty to the family.

Turn the blind eye

Even though the authorities haven’t exactly shown too much interest in punishing the criminals, there have been some attempts to stop this heinous act. In December 2004, the government passed a bill which made Karo-Kari punishable under the same penal as murder. However, this bill seems very useless besides another Pakistani law; a proven murderer can seek or buy pardon from the victim’s family. No attempts of changing the law have been made, and since a family member commits the crime, almost all of them are pardoned. And once the perpetrator is pardoned, the state cannot to any further thing with the case.

Illiteracy and Ignorance

It has been noted and highlighted by sociologists that honour killings do not always have something to do with religion but rather from customs and cultures from different areas of the country. The practice of karo-kari actually dates back to the pre-Islamic period when Arab settlers occupied a region adjacent to Sindh, which was known as Baluchistan according to Dr. Kay Ashraf.

The number of honour killings in Pakistan is estimated to be around 2,500 to 3,000 cases every year, however, a good number of these cases go unreported or are passed off as suicides and only 25% of these are brought to justice.

These murders happen in rural areas and villages with a high number of uneducated people. People get married in an early age and children don’t get education. Women and girls are usually forced to stay home and not socialize. The husband and in laws can literally do anything they want and walk unpunished.

The government and authorities has not done enough to stop this barbaric custom. When I look at the numbers of females killed, I notice that it is much higher than the men. So does it mean that women are more unfaithful? I don’t think so. Besides all the NGO’s, the media workers should have enough freedom of speech and censorship to highlight this problem.

Something must be done to save these women from this heinous act because they also deserve a life without violence and abuse.

Virgin suicides

“My family attacked my personality, and I felt I had committed the biggest sin in the world. I felt I had no right to dishonor my family, that I have no right to be alive. So I decided to respect my family’s desire and die.” Derya, 17 years old. Turkey.

The order to kill herself came from her uncle in a text message to her cell phone. “You have blackened our name, kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first,” it said. Derya’s crime was to fall in love with a boy she had met at school. She knew it was dangerous because her aunt had been killed by her grandfather for speaking with a boy.

When news of the love affair spread to her family, her mother warned her that her father would kill her but she refused to listen. Her brothers and uncle sent her text messages every day threatening her. Filled with shame and afraid, Derya decided to commit suicide. First she jumped into the Tigris River, but survived. Then she tried to hang herself but another uncle cut her down. Last she tried to slash her wrists with a kitchen knife.

Elif, another young girl received her death sentence when she declined the offer of an arranged marriage with an older man. Her wish was to continue on her education. The disobedience brought shame on her whole family and the only way out was death. She managed to escape.

These honor suicides in Turkey has reached new heights as they have turned into honor suicides. This phenomenon emerged after the new reforms to Turkey’s penal code in 2005. Before, killers could receive reduced sentences claiming provocation but after the reforms, the government introduced mandatory life sentences for honor killings. Soon after the law was passed, honor suicides increased in numbers. Batman, a city in the south east with a population of 250,000 has got the nickname “suicide city” because of the high number of suicides among girls. The city was also featured in the novel by Turkish writer and Nobel literature winner in 2006 Orhan Pamuk’s “snow”. The story was about a journalist’s investigation of a suicide epidemic among teenage girls. Between 2001 and 2006, there were 1,806 murders in Turkey that fell under the definition of honor killings, according to the State Minister for Women and Family Affairs Nimet Çubukçu. Meanwhile, during the same period, 5,375 women committed suicide.

 A man showing pic of his 14 year old daughter who committed suicide

A majority of the murders happens in the Kurdish regions where people have been segregated from the rest of the society. Education usually ends in an early age and ignorance seems to transfer from generations to generations. These rural communities are ruled under a strict patriarchal system and decisions are usually made by a “family council” when the extended family meets to discuss honor. They discuss everything from how the victim should be killed and if it isn’t a forced suicide, a killer is chosen. The youngest member of the family is often chosen in hope that they will receive a shorter sentence. The families have the choice between sacrificing a son to a life in prison or forcing the daughter to finish the job herself.

23-year-old Yildiz A. from Turkey was stabbed in the stomach six or seven times and her nose and ears and part of her lip cut off, then she was dumped in a field. She managed to crawl to the side of the road where a passing motorist took her to hospital.

13 year old Rojda was raped and as punishment for “allowing” herself to be raped, her nose was cut off

There are many honor killers in the prisons and oddly enough, they are treated with huge respect among the other inmates and even some prison guards. In the recent years, many Kurds have fled their hometowns and settled to other cities across the country because of the fighting’s between Turkey’s government and the rebels PKK. With the migration, the honor killings and suicides are spreading as well.

Turkey has the highest proportion of female professors in Europe, at 27% and the lifestyle has developed into modern and secular. Families who move to bigger cities and face a modern secular lifestyle have a hard time adjusting and the clash of culture makes it hard on the females who are forced to behave conservatively when there are more temptations around.

Almost every week, a young female tries to commit suicide in Batman or in the nearby areas which are commonly poor and rural with deeply rooted tribal traditions. Others have been stoned to death, strangled, shot or buried alive. Their crime was everything from looking at a boy, wearing a short skirt, declining an arranged marriage, wanting to go out with friends, being raped or engaged in sexual relations out of wedlock. Once the shame has spread to the family, the only way it can be restored is through death. Some women’s group have reported that the girls are being locked up in a room for days with a gun, rat poison, rope etc. they are constantly reminded on that their disgrace is punished by death.

In an effort to help these girls, Ka-Mer, a local women’s group has created a hot line for women who fear that their life might be at risk. They help the girls find shelter and to apply to the courts for restraining orders against their relatives. Ayten Tekar, a caseworker for Ka-Mer in Diyarbakir stated that half of the 104 women, who called the hot line, were uneducated and illiterate. Some had also told that the families hadn’t wanted to kill them but the social pressure and the village gossip had driven them to commit suicide.  “We have to bring these killings out from the shadows and teach women about their rights. The laws have been changed, but the culture here will not change overnight,” she said.

A worldwide epidemic

According to the United Nations, about 5,000 honor killings take place each year, most of them in the Middle East. Iraqi Kurds, Palestinians in Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey appear to be the worst offenders. But honor crimes long ago spread to Britain, Belgium, Russia and Canada and many other nations.These killings have spread throughout Europe and reached to the US during the last 10 years as migrants have settled down. Police authorities across Europe who wasn’t familiar with the problem met in 2006 to discuss the reasons and preventions. Denmark was the first country out in a European court to sentence several family members for honor killing instead of just the triggerman. It can now be found in USA, Germany, Sweden, France, Netherlands and United Kingdom.

Ghazala Kahn, a Pakistani 18 year old, had an intimate relationship with her future husband, Emal Khan 3 years before her murder. She kept the relationship secret but eventually revealed her feelings to her mother, who became outraged and beat her, joined by Ghazala’s older brother, Akhtar Abbas, the same man who would later shoot her. After this, Ghazala was locked up inside the house and “frozen out” by the rest of her family, all of whom refused to speak to her or eat with her. Finally, on 5 September 2005 she managed to escape and lived with Emal. In the period up until her murder they lived with various friends in Denmark. They repeatedly contacted the police for protection, but were denied help. On 21 September they married and two days later, the family, pretending to want to come to a peaceful reconciliation, convinced the newlywed couple to arrange a meeting at the railway station where Ghazala’s brother shot both Ghazala and Emal Khan. Ghazala was killed instantly while Emal, shot twice survived.

The family was upset so they persuaded Ghazala’s brother to shoot her. The court however convicted 9 members of the family, including her father who conceived the murder and received a life sentence. Her brother received 16 years in prison and an aunt will spend 14 years in prison for luring Ghazala to what she believed would be a family gathering.

Migrants have lived in Europe for many years, so why haven’t they managed to integrate to the society? The problem goes way longer than a couple of years. After World War 2, Europe, especially Germany was left war stricken and the country needed guest workers to rebuild its cities. A huge amount of immigrants, mostly Turkish and Kurds migrated to West Europe and most of them were poor and uneducated. The mistake Germany commit was to allow separate schools for over 20 years and special housing for the guest workers where only their native language was spoken. This led to closed communities where Western culture and values were disregarded making room for ghettoes. Today, there are still classes at public schools where the native language is spoken and in the afternoon the children go home where the parents doesn’t speak German.

Iraq

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has regularly highlighted “honour” killings of Kurdish women as being among the country’s most severe problems. Most of these crimes are reported as deaths caused by accidental fires in the home. 12,500 women were murdered or had committed suicide between 1991 and 2007 for “honour” reasons in Iraq’s 3 major Kurdish provinces. Authorities have admitted that they feel powerless when it comes to preventing the honor killings and honor suicides following by an increase of 70%. On reason can be that there is almost no conviction. Few years ago, 81 women were reported murdered and the authorities had made only 5 convictions. The police release the killers shortly after the arrest and does little attempt to track them down.

Rand Abdel-Qader was killed after her family discovered that she had formed a friendship with a 22-year-old infantryman whom she knew as Paul. She was suffocated by her father then hacked at with a knife. Abdel-Qader Ali was arrested and shortly after released without charge. Rand’s mother, Leila Hussein, who divorced her husband after the killing, went into hiding but was tracked down weeks later and assassinated by an unknown gunman. Her husband had told The Observer that police had congratulated him for killing his daughter. The father has left Basra. He was held by police in connection with his daughter’s murder for only two hours and a local businessman who described the actions of Rand’s father as ‘courageous’ was believed to have given a huge amount of money to him and his two sons, who disowned their mother after she objected to Rand’s killing.

An Iraqi lawyer said that some fathers had started to hire professional hitmen to carry out ‘honour killings.’ “The life of these women isn’t higher than $100. You can find a killer standing in any coffee shop of Basra, discussing prices of a life as if he was buying a piece of meat,” he said.

Mariam Ayub Sattar, an activist in Basra, said that any woman caught speaking to a man in public who was not her husband or a relative was considered a prostitute and punished. Three women were burned with acid while walking through a market in Basra after stopping to speak to a male friend, Sattar also told. This shows how narrow minded the Iraqi’s are and how much they try to isolate the women while the men have enormous freedom. A blow to the face was when The Women’s Rights Association in Basra was forced to close down after receiving death threats following the murder of Rand’s mother. Two women from a voluntary organization who had been helping her to hide from her husband were also injured.

Besides the murder, hundreds of women commit suicide every year by setting themselves on fire. In the first half of 2010, 80 suicides were reported in the Kurdish city of Suleimania according to a human rights activist named Suaad al-Khazraji. These suicides are actually not suicide but murder since they are forced by family members to restore the family honor. Looking at the numbers in Suleimania that is regarded to be the most open and modern city, the numbers are probably in thousands in the more conservative provinces like Baghdad, Basra, Arbil and Dahouk.

I don’t think that the elder generations will change their opinion about honor killings and suicides. For them, this is the only right thing to do and honor goes before everything. What the government should do is to target the younger generations in the rural areas. Education is number one solution to everything. When they know their rights, know how to read and write, then they also can escape this horrible practice. We cannot afford to lose more daughters, sisters and wife’s.

“In my village and in my father’s tribe, boys are in the sky while girls are treated as if they are under the earth. As long as families do not trust their daughters, bad things will continue to happen.”Derya, 17 years.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 25 Nov 2011

You were born into this world with many opportunities. As you played in the courtyard, you and your friends dreamed about the future. What you would do and achieve. Your plans were as great as your heart.

One day you got your first slap on your cheek. “Girls don’t go to school! You cannot step out from this home!” father said. The tears that burned in your eyes were nothing besides the fire inside of you. You learned that you had to obey.

“You have to marry him! My honor is at stake”, said father and planted a second slap on your face. The man was twice the age you were. You didn’t even know what marriage was.  “I was exactly your age when I married your father. You will get use to it” was mothers answer.

The day came and you became the stranger’s wife. ”You are my property and you will do as I say” he said and punched you in the head.

“Nobody can interfere between husband and wife” your mother in law said. You learned that day to suffer in silence.

“He is your husband, you must obey him” your mother told you and turned you away.

“You cannot divorce him! You will stay with him until death do you part!!” your father told you.

And indeed, death did you apart. For one day, you were no more. For even though you couldn’t speak anymore, the bruises and marks on your face and body spoke for you. They told the story of violence and abuse you suffered, just like thousands of others like you.

Violence against women is a shameful act. Show your support and say NO to violence against women! 

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