Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, September 16th, 2019

Honor Killing – A Practice against Law

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Honor Killing – A Practice against Law

“Honor killing”, which has been deeply embedded in Afghanistan’s traditional culture, and violence against women is a common practice in Afghanistan, mainly in tribal belts. The Taliban’s regime (1996 – 2001) consolidated the traditionally established culture and patriarchal system in the country and sidelined women in social, cultural, and political spheres.
A large number of Afghans, particularly Pashtuns in tribal areas, adhere to the established traditions – be it against Constitutional law or Islamic tenets. Although there are many constitutional and religious ifs and buts in punishing an individual, honor killing is a traditional practice, which is based neither on religious tenets nor on Afghan law.
Rod Nordland, a correspond for the New York Times, stated in his book “The Lovers” – which is about two Afghan lovers a Tajik girl Zakia and a Hazara boy Muhammad Ali who defied the country’s tradition and escaped an honor killing – that another girl Safoora also resided with Zakia in the Bamiyan Women’s Shelter. He said, “Safoora’s case was particularly distressing. Brought to court in a dispute between two families over the terms of her engagement at fourteen years of age, she was taken into a back room at the courthouse and gang-raped by court employees. She complained, but the judges blocked any prosecution of the rapists, and so Safoora was in the shelter fleeing their retribution and fearing her own family’s wrath against her.” He added, “It is commonplace for Afghan families to murder a daughter who has had the poor judgment or bad luck to be raped; the rapist is often treated with shocking leniency. They call it ‘honor killing.’”
Honor killings are prevalent in Afghan tribal areas, where tribal code of conduct holds strong sway. Flexibility will be hardly shown to the boys and girls who elope, especially when the two belong to different ethnic or sectarian groups.
Now it is feared that with the return of the Taliban, honor killing practices and violence against women will increase. In other words, the Taliban will support tribal code of conduct and patriarchal system since the bulk of the Taliban militants are believed to come from tribal areas with parochial mindset.
It is believed that a large number of tribal belt residents are potential hardliners, who support honor killings and offensive approach towards women. If the Taliban reinforce traditional practices, when they return after the likely peace agreement with the Afghan government, women will be prone to further violence and misogynistic approach.
In the peace agreement, if signed, it should be stipulated that the Taliban must not touch Afghan constitution or university syllabi and have to support the rule of law. Anyone who resorts to honor killings, which is against law, should be prosecuted. In short, the Taliban’s return have not to jeopardize constitutional law or democratic principles.
To mitigate violence against women, the government has to establish more universities in all provinces and tribal areas with moderate lecturers to spread awareness about law and the rights and freedoms of women. When peace emerges, no single district is supposed to be left behind in terms of having access to schools and universities.
I believe that schooling plays a highly crucial role in decreasing violence against women. If people are educated, they will hardly fall for the bogus claims of religious hardliners. Meanwhile, traditional culture will be replaced by the rule of law and people will be more rational.
Moreover, there must be a strict control on seminaries by the government and the content of the lessons is to be approved by the ministry of education. In short, the horizon of all individuals should be broadened by government’s extensive educational programs so that there remains no potential for radicalism.
Simultaneously, the rule of law should be enforced and no one is supposed to be deemed beyond law. As mentioned above in the case of Safoora, law-enforcers violated law through raping her and blocking the prosecution.
In some cases, women who complain against someone in the court is viewed negatively. It indicates that a number of individuals still prefer family cases or violence against women be resolved through tribal councils rather than judicial systems.
All in all, honor killing is a flagrant violation of law and stems from tribal code of conduct and traditional culture. The government should prevent this issue through extending educational programs and enforcing the rule of law. No one should perpetrate this crime with impunity. Meanwhile, the people of virtue should be appointed in judicial systems so that they enforce the law honestly.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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