‘Honour’ killings continue to be a disgrace

Posted on 9 August 2011


By Aruna Papp, Calgary Herald August 6, 2011

Arif Mubashir, a Pakistani father of six daughters, called them into his room and shot them while the rest of the family, including the mother, Musarrat, watched.

The six daughters were gunned down because their brother suspected that two of them (Razia, 16, and Sameena, 14) “were friendly with male students who attended a nearby college.” The four other girls were killed because they sided with their sisters. They, too, were deemed corrupt and were executed.

Mubashir told police that he killed Razia and Sameena “because they were without honour.” He said that “he does not regret what he did. He boasted that he would do it all over again if he had to.”

Mubashir’s deeds may be rare, but they are not uncommon.

The Aurat Foundation, an agency working to empower women in Pakistan, reported that it had recorded 3,035 such cases in Pakistan between January and June. Former Pakistani parliamentarian Mehnaz Rafi has said that violence against women has increased in 2011. In India, more than 5,000 brides die annually because their dowries are considered insufficient, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The Progressive Women’s Association, in Bangladesh, which assists attack victims, tracked 3,560 women who were hospitalized after being attacked at home with fire, gasoline or acid between 1994 and 1999. Recently, Rumana Manzur became the victim of honour-based violence in Bangladesh, when her husband attacked her with explosive rage and tried to gouge her eyes out on the mere (unfounded) suspicion that she had been unfaithful.

Just days ago in Surrey, B.C., Manmeet Singh allegedly murdered his wife, Ravinder Bhangu, while she was at work at a Punjabi newspaper.

Thousands of women are regularly murdered by family members each year in the name of family “honour” around the world. It’s difficult to get precise numbers on the phenomenon of honour killing; the murders frequently go unreported, the perpetrators unpunished.

How does a father execute his six daughters? How does a husband try to gouge his wife’s eyes out? Honour killings reflect long-standing patriarchal traditions in societies where women are viewed as vessels of family honour and the male members see themselves as protectors of this honour.

Children learn from an early age that boys are more valued than girls. The only way for girls to attain value is through their relationships to men, mainly as wives and mothers of sons.

Boys are given all freedom and are encouraged to participate in decision-making as “protectors” of the women. A girl or woman who refuses to abide by strictures set by the family patriarch, or defies him in choosing her own partner, is seen as shaming the family. A harsh punishment at the hands of the patriarch and/or her brothers is then regarded as necessary, and is a fate seen as triggered by the victim herself.

The “protector” must have complete control of the females. Typically, the killer of the women is usually the father, husband or the brother of the victim. Honour killings are carried out to cleanse the family name and restore the family’s perceived lost honour. The killer’s deeds have the tacit approval of the family, at the very least.

But some surviving victims of these barbaric acts refuse to be defined by the violence inflicted on them. Manzur is an example. She is determined to carry on and finish her studies despite losing her sight. Support from family, friends and even strangers in Canada keeps her going.

Catherine Duvergne, senior adviser to University of B.C. president Stephen Toope, told the media, “It’s absolutely possible for Manzur to continue her studies once she has recovered.”

One thing that is certain, said Duvergne, “whatever decisions Manzur makes from this point going forward, she is going to need financial support.”

Nothing can be done now for the murdered daughters of Arif and Mussarat Mubashir in Pakistan. But Rumana Manzur has not given up hope that something can be done to restore her sight. Canadians have a chance to help. Online donations can be directed through https: //rumana. givecentre.com/donate/11.

A rally of support and fundraising will be held today in Toronto.

Aruna Papp is research associate with the Frontier Centre. She is the author of Culturally-Driven Violence Against Women: A Growing Problem in Canada’s Immigrant Communities, available at http://www.fcpp.org. Her upcoming book, Unworthy Creature: A Daughter’s Memoir of Honour, Shame, and Love (McClelland & Stewart, 2012), is due next spring.
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