THE PAKISTAN Parliament has finally approved a Bill that effectively closes the loophole in the country’s legal system that allows perpetrators of “honor killings” to walk free.
Media reports said the Bill, which was first introduced in March last year, was passed unanimously by both houses of Parliament on Thursday.
“A vicious circle has now come to an end,” Senator Farhatullah Babar was quoted telling CNN.
“No murderer will be able to walk away free even if his parents or family members forgive him for killing his sister, wife or mother in the name of ‘honor.'”
According to Farhatullah, the law now states that so-called “honor killers” would face a maximum jail sentence of 25 years if found guilty of such murders.
Previously, the killers could be pardoned by the family of the victim and allowed to avoid the jail term.
Honor killings have for years remained a common practice in Pakistan, with more than 500 victims – most of them women – of such killings each year.
The killings are usually carried out by members of a victim’s family in retribution for “besmirching” the family’s honor.
A BBC article quoting the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said nearly 1,100 women were killed by relatives in Pakistan last year in such killings. The article added that many other such cases go unreported.
The milestone this week comes three months after the high-profile killing of Qandeel Baloch, a social media star.
Qandeel was killed by her brother Waseem Baloch for allegedly dishonoring the family.
According to past reports, Waseem admitted to the murder after committing the act, saying he gave his sister a tablet and strangled her to death in the family home near Multan city in Punjab province.
“I am a drug addict but I was in my senses when I murdered her and I accept it with pride. Now everybody will remember me with honor that I have provided relief to my parents and brothers who were suffering for the last two decades because of her,” he said, as quoted by The Express Tribune in its July article.
“Girls are born only to stay at home and to bring honor to the family by following family traditions, but Qandeel had never done that,” added Waseem.
Baloch, 26, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, was known for posting bold, risqué videos and photos to her Facebook, which were criticized by the country’s conservative Muslim community.
She also recently caused a controversy when she posted photos of herself with a prominent Muslim cleric.
Despite receiving death threats and abusive comments on social media, Baloch refused to bow down to critics, identifying herself as a feminist.
In one Facebook post, Baloch wrote: “I am trying to change the typical orthodox mindset of people who don’t wanna come out of their shells of false beliefs and old practices.”