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Price of refusing a marriage proposal: one more girl killed by her brother

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According to media reports a brother, identified as Shoaib, has killed his sister for refusing a marriage proposal of his liking. Sources claim that Shoaib had asked his sister to accept the marriage proposal but a heated argument occurred when she informed him she wanted to marry someone else. Mr. Shoaib then reportedly shot her to death and fled the scene.

In Pakistan despite several laws and NGOs, women face such violence off and on. According to experts, reasons behind such violence vary from case to case but one common thing is the presence of the obsolete idea of family honor. An individual’s action, and particularly of a woman, is considered as an attack on the collectively earned familial status in a society.

Refusing a Marriage Proposal: A Question of ‘Honor’

This is not for the first time in Pakistan that a girl who refused to marry a man has been killed. Maria Sadaqat, 19, was a young schoolteacher who was set on fire for refusing a marriage proposal of a school owner’s son in June 2016. She suffered serious burns on nearly all of her body. Local media reported that she had 85% burns and died later.  According to Maria’s mother, “they have taken away my universe, why was she brutally murdered? How can they not feel any compassion?”

Pakistan could not make desired intellectual and cultural growth which created a stagnant cultural and moral order based upon unfounded beliefs.

Asma Rani, a third-year MBBS student at Abbottabad medical college, was killed by a young man, Mujahidullah, from an influential family for refusing a marriage proposal. Asma was in her hometown of Kohat on vacation when Mujahidullah opened fire at her in January this year.

In 2018, Mahwish Arshad, 19, employed at a local travel company, was killed by a man, Umer Daraz, one of her fellow workers at the same company, on 9th June 2018. The killer confessed to his crime. According to Umar Daraz, he killed Mahwish for repeatedly refusing his marriage proposal.

Read more: Continuing scourge of honor killing in Pakistan

Although in the province of Punjab a law The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2015 has been passed yet there are numerous cases of violence against women in the province. Honor killing has become almost a norm in many parts of Pakistan where women are treated as commodity and whose sole responsibility is to be submissive guardians of men’s honor and ego.

Experts and researchers suggest that in Pakistan’s social setting like many other developing polities is a complex and rigid concept of power. Violence against women, like rape, is a demonstration of power and strength. It should, therefore, be understood from a sociological perspective which helps understanding the context in which these incidents take place.  If a girl, for example, refuses a marriage proposal of a man for any stated or unstated reasons she, by doing so, insults the man, and hurts his ego.

An individual’s action, and particularly of a woman, is considered as an attack on the collectively earned familial status in a society. 

Such beliefs at social level do not allow law to serve the intended purpose; protection of the weaker from the powerful. Be it the case of Maria, Asma or Mahwish, one thing which is common is the social belief system their murderer held and practiced; how can a women even imagine to refuse a man? All of them have the same sense of men’s ego, world-view, and status of woman in a society.

These beliefs and world-views were once a part of pre-modern societies but with the passage of time the people learnt civilized ideals of respect and love and created a culture where men and women have equal opportunities to express their potential and make decisions independently. Due to political instability and economic backwardness, Pakistan could not make desired intellectual and cultural growth which created a stagnant cultural and moral order based upon unfounded beliefs.

Read more: Pakistan’s Honor-Killing Law Isn’t Enough

Analysts believe that by developing a comprehensive mechanism of conflict resolution may help Pakistan to get rid of it. Prominent TV anchor and columnist Dr. Moeed Pirzada offered an interesting solution in an article he wrote almost two years ago.  “Police, local political elite, and lower judiciary – most of whom themselves are convinced of the value of ‘honor’ — need to be trained to understand these conflicts in the context of modernity and to be able to help institutions like Dar-ul-Amman, local councils, and government approved local bodies to find solutions.

In most cases, these negotiations to find acceptability for situations that are locally unpalatable can take weeks or months and intervening layers of institutions have to be trained for that. This is what their capacity building is about. And perhaps most importantly media and educational institutions need to change the narrative; with the help of celluloid and books we need to spread the message around that young adults have the right to make their choices in love – and this includes the right to make painful blunders. And there is no family ‘dishonor’ in matters of the heart,” he argues.


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