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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 11:55 GMT
Musharraf plea on 'honour killings'
Mother of rape victim
Women are at high risk within their own families, campaigners say
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has called for an end to "the curse" of honour killings.

He said that crimes committed in the name of family honour would be dealt with the full force of the government.

The president told a conference on women's affairs that Pakistani males should change their attitudes towards women and show civilised behaviour.

He said they should show chivalry while dealing with honour killings, which were totally illegal.

According to the Pakistani Human Rights Commission, at least 461 women were killed by family members in Pakistan in 2002, and at least as many were raped.

Legal loopholes

Most honour crimes are carried out by men who believe their actions will defend the reputation of their family.

The Human Rights Commission says that in the southern province of Sindh alone there were more than 300 honour killings in 2002.

Many of those accused in such cases largely escape punishment because of legal loopholes and sympathy in rural areas towards those who carry out acts considered to be legitimate in Islamic law.

I would like to urge all those in positions of authority show that we are tolerant, educated, progressive society and we do not tolerate honour killings
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf

The third meeting of the Regional Steering Committee for the Advancement of Rural and Island Women of Asia Pacific (RSC-AP) was inaugurated by the Pakistani president and his wife, Begum Sehba Musharraf.

She is the current chairperson of the organisation.

Formally established in 1995 as part of the Fourth World Conference on Women, the RSC-AP is involved in mobilising efforts concerning rural women.

President Musharraf called for a debate on the country's Hadood or Islamic laws which mostly deal with crimes of adultery or rape and are widely considered to be discriminatory towards women.

A mother whose daughter committed suicide after being raped is comforted
Police in Pakistan have been accused of failing women

Introduced by General Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, the ordinance requires four male Muslim witnesses to a rape before a conviction can be secured.

The president said that the Hadood Ordinance was a "very touchy and thorny issue" which required more public debate.

Human rights activists have accused the president in the past of failing to crack down on honour killings, alleging that he has been reluctant to take action for fear of offending the country's politically influential Islamic hardliners.

The BBC's Paul Anderson
"In Pakistan, women in rural communities live a hard life"

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