Karo-Kari in Sindh: A Practice Related to Honor That Has No Honor in itself

75 men and women have been killed in the last six months in Sindh in the name of honor. Experts believe violence takes place in a cultural context where the state is unable to act against the culprits rather in some cases it is part of such inhumane activity.

Honor

News Analysis |

Honor killing or murder in the name of honor is a feature of socially conservative societies. The primary target of these acts of violence are generally women who violate cultural norms and unfounded moral beliefs. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), at least 5,000 women are actually killed in the name of honor across the world.

However, sometimes men also become the victim of such collectively performed cruelty. Unfortunately, about one-fifth of honor killings are carried out in Pakistan. According to a recent report, in Sindh alone, 50 women and 20 men fall victim to Karo-Kari” in the last six months.

Karo-kari is premediated honor killing widely practiced in rural and tribal areas of Sindh. Any men or women involved in pre-marital or extra-marital relations is considered the enemy of collective conscience and the concerned family is expected to take the life of the person in order to restore the honor or reputation.

Official statistics reveal that from January to June 2019, there have been 78 cases of honor killing. Some cases have been registered but in many cases investigations are pending due to cultural as well as structural challenges.

The Inspector General-Sindh, Dr. Kaleem Imam, has been placing a special focus on the practice of Karo-Kari and taking all possible measures to ensure the safety of vulnerable segments of the society.

Karo Kari is driven by a complex interplay of factors like patriarchy, feudal culture, complicit role of the state institutions and law enforcement agencies, and a web of vested sociopolitical interests.

He also reportedly directed the officials concerned to ensure that there must not be any loophole left in the investigations and the same was also adequately pursued before courts.

However, police generally find it difficult to investigate such cases due to cultural reasons. “Honour killing is a social problem and has its roots in the tribal culture and a mindset where women are seen as subservient to men,” said DIG-Headquarters Abdul Khaliq Shaikh.

A long-term solution is required to deal with sociological challenges that have roots in history. “A long-term solution lies in changing this mindset and empowering women in society in general. As far as the criminal justice response is concerned the police department has taken several useful initiatives to deal with the menace of killings in the name of so-called honor which included execution of a project on prevention of honour killings in collaboration with UNDP and a training module for police officers have been developed to sensitise them,” he added.

Understanding the context: What Motivates Families to Kill their member(s)?

Honor killing is socially accepted method to restore the lost honor in rural societies. Although there have been several campaigns, legislations and public seminars in the country to protect women who “fall in love or wish to marry the man of their choice” yet the number of cases is persistently on the rise.

Pakistan’s civil society and public intellectual generally keep on focusing to introduce new laws to curb the use of violence of immediate families. However, there is little understanding of its sociological or cultural context which makes almost every law useless or ineffective.

Sujay Patel and Amin Ahmed Muhammad Gadit in an article titled Karo-kari: a form of honor killing in Pakistan noted that “although legally proscribed, socio-cultural factors and gender role expectations have given legitimacy to karo-kari within some tribal communities.”

In an ethnographic research titled Karo-Kari- The Murder of Honor in Sindh Pakistan: An Ethnographic Study conducted in Jacobabad in 2013, a group of researchers came up with some alarming conclusion. They found that “honor murders were not solely driven by customs and traditions, but also by a feudal culture, male dominated social structures, the complicit role of state institutions and law enforcement agencies and a web of vested interests”.

It made the understanding of honor killing phenomenon more complex and contestable. While proposing the solution, the researchers suggested that “honor murders may be prevented by reducing the influence and interference of feudal lords on state institutions, in particular, law enforcement agencies, and by promoting education that challenges a patriarchal and feudal mindset in the community”.

Read more: Whistle-blower of Kohistan honor killing scandal gunned down

GVS approached Ms. Asma Yunus, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Sargodha, and asked her about the context in which Karo-Kari takes place. She thinks that

“Karo Kari is driven by a complex interplay of factors like patriarchy, feudal culture, complicit role of the state institutions and law enforcement agencies, and a web of vested sociopolitical interests”. While pointing out the role of education to maintain the status quo, Ms. Asma says “our social structure especially educational institutes are highly dominated by patriarchy and every component of education, from syllabus to academic environment, corresponds with the old age customs and traditions of patriarchy”.

When asked why education has failed in enabling young students to question the existing culture and unfounded moral beliefs, she replied: “Education, as now, is mostly perpetuating and reproducing the feudal mentality instead of replacing it. Therefore, education has failed to play a significant role in combating inhumane and heinous customs like Karo-Kari. It is only possible through promoting critical thinking among the young students to challenge this patriarchal and feudal mindset in the community.

Read more: Death of Pakistani student in China: suicide or honor killing?

In contemporary rural Sindh, argues G-M Pitafi, Lecturer at the University of Management and Technology, Karo-Kari has become a tool for economic exploitation of the rival. “Tribes use females from economically underprivileged families to target their rivals. The one who is blamed for having illicit relationship with a woman has to pay money and immediately leave the area,” he said.

In some cases, it goes out of control and leads to the killing of both man and woman, he added. Local administration along with leaders of the tribes is, argues Mr. Pitafi, a part of the entire process. Therefore, these cases are on the rise.

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