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Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 18:49 GMT
Rise in Pakistan 'honour killings'
The victim of the alleged gang rape (l) and her mother
Rape is reportedly widespread in Punjab
At least 461 women were killed by family members in Pakistan in 2002, the country's independent Human Rights Commission says.

So-called "honour killings" are up by nearly 25% on last year's reported total of 372, its latest figures show.

Unfortunately, police in Pakistan either don't arrest such killers or they are not treated as murderers

Kamila Hayat, Human Rights Commission
The commission urged greater protection for women, and said at least as many had been raped as killed in the last year.

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

In the southern province of Sindh alone there were more than 300 honour killings, the report said.

And some 161 women or girls were killed by relatives in the central province of Punjab.

There were no figures for the rest of Pakistan where information, particularly in rural areas, is often difficult to obtain.

Awareness

"Crimes against women continued to rise this year," senior commission official Kamila Hayat told the Associated Press.

She says the commission lacks resources to operate in some of the most conservative areas of Baluchistan and North Western Frontier Provinces.

The victim of the gang rape
The gang rape provoked international outrage
Commission officials say the number of killings could be much higher, as they are still compiling a full report on crimes against women.

Officials also said the rise in reported cases may be partly due to better awareness among family members or neighbours who are now coming forward to report crimes they would have ignored in the past.

In June this year, the community-ordered gang rape of Mukhtiar Bibi in Punjab triggered national and international outrage.

Laws changed

In that case, six men were convicted of attacking her and sentenced to hang.

But in most honour killings, those guilty are rarely punished.

"Unfortunately, police in Pakistan either don't arrest such killers or they are not treated as murderers," Ms Hayat said.

The authorities, however, say steps have been taken to reduce crimes against women.

"The government has recently made some changes in the laws to give more protection to the women," Javed Iqbal Cheema at Pakistan's Interior Ministry told the Associated Press.

But human rights activists say more needs to be done.

"We need collective efforts to save women from brutal crimes," Ms Hayat said.

See also:

01 Sep 02 | South Asia
25 Jul 02 | South Asia
22 Jul 02 | South Asia
28 May 02 | South Asia
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