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Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK

World: South Asia

Pakistan honour killings condemned

Violence against women is routine, the report says

By Islamabad correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones

The practice of honour killings in Pakistan has been highlighted and strongly condemned in a report by the human rights group, Amnesty International.

Hundreds of women die each year in Pakistan as a result of honour killings, according to the report.

The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones: "Many people deny that honour killings are a widespread problem"
Amnesty says many of the killings go unreported and in almost all cases the perpetrators, who are often close family members, go unpunished.

Women also live in fear of torture and violence, their basic human rights ignored, says Amnesty.

The report says that women become the victims of honour killings for a variety of reasons.

Women, for example, seeking to make their own decision about who they will marry, can be accused of undermining family honour.

Women seeking divorce or women who have been raped are also at risk.

Lenient judges

In some cases, murders are committed for other motives and dressed up as honour killings because the perpetrators believe the courts will take a lenient view.

Angelica Pathak, from Amnesty International: "It is high time these killings ended"
Pakistan jurists insist that, in law, killing someone for reasons of honour is not a mitigating circumstance.

But in practice, many judges do view honour killings leniently and few of those responsible for them serve long sentences. Indeed, few are ever prosecuted at all.

Amnesty says that wide-ranging legal reforms and public awareness campaigns are needed if the number of honour killings is to be reduced.

The issue has been prominent in Pakistan ever since Samia Sarwar, a young woman filing for a divorce, was killed in her lawyer's office earlier this year.

Eyewitnesses said that Samia's mother was in the office watching as her daughter was shot dead.

But no one has been charged with her murder and a resolution condemning her killing was defeated in Pakistan's Senate.

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