Editorial, Nina Kharazmi || Photography

Honor Killings in Pakistan

Over 1,000 women are brutally murdered in Pakistan each year.

October 6, 2016

Photo by: Borgen Magazine

Pakistan is a patriarchal society where women’s behaviors are traditionally limited by cultural restrictions in order to preserve their chastity. Any deviant behavior is therefore deemed immoral and brings dishonor upon the family. Consequently, women labeled as deviant are often murdered by male relatives or neighbors in order to restore familial honor and reputation within the community (1). These brutal acts of murder are known as honor killings. Each year, over 1,000 women in Pakistan are murdered in the name of honor.

While “immoral behavior” includes infidelity, it also encompasses a range of unexpected behaviors. For instance, women are often murdered for being raped, refusing an arranged marriage, dressing “inappropriately” or acting flirtatious. It can also be warranted by familial quarrels over property ownership, inheritance issues, or a woman’s desire to marry for love. Many times women are even murdered on the basis of suspicion alone (2).


Photo by: Gospel Herald

Human rights groups have been pressuring the Pakistani government to put an end to honor killings. However, authorities have been unsuccessful and have often even turned a blind eye. In many cases, murders are not even investigated, leaving perpetrators free from prosecution (3).


Photo by: BBC

This issue has gained international attention, especially with the rising number of high-profile honor killings this year. One such case was Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media star, who was strangled to death by her brother in July. Pakistani filmmaker and activist, Sharmeen Obaid, also heightened international attention towards this issue in her Academy Award winning documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.

In response to the rising campaigns for women’s rights, the Pakistani government passed a bill ensuring that killers receive a mandatory life sentence (4). Previously, a killer could be pardoned for murder if he gained forgiveness from the victim’s family. This new legislation no longer allows freedom from impunity. Even still, it remains uncertain whether this law is enough to deter honor killings. However, activists everywhere are celebrating this new step in the right direction towards ending violence against women.


Honor killing suspects are blind folded before their court hearing. (Photo by: CNN)


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  1. “Pakistan rejects pro-women bill”. BBC News. March 2, 2005.
  2. Hassan, Yasmeen. “The Fate of Pakistani Women”. New York TimesMarch 25, 1999.
  3. “Pakistan’s honour killings enjoy high-level support”. Taipei Times. The Liberty Times Group. Retrieved September 20, 2016.

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