At least 675 Pakistani women and girls were murdered during the first nine months of the year for allegedly defaming their family’s honour, a leading human rights group said Tuesday.
The statistics highlight the scale of violence suffered by many women in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where they are frequently treated as second-class citizens and there is no law against domestic violence.
Despite some progress on better protecting women’s rights, activists say the government needs to do far more to prosecute murderers in cases largely dismissed by police as private, family affairs.
“A total of 675 women and girls were killed in the name of honour across Pakistan from January to September,” a senior official in the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told AFP.
They included at least 71 victims under the age of 18.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is unauthorised to speak to the media, said figures were still being compiled from October to December, and that a full report would be released in February.
The Commission reported 791 honour killings in 2010 and there was no discernible decrease this year, the official added.
Around 450 of the women killed from January to September were accused of having “illicit relations” and 129 of marrying without permission.
Some victims were raped or gangraped before being killed, he said. At least 19 were killed by their sons, 49 by their fathers and 169 by their husbands.
Rights groups say the government should do more to ensure that women subject to violence, harassment and discrimination have effective access to justice.
Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, told AFP that the state’s inability to enforce rule of law, leaving matters in the hands of tribesmen and local elders, was a major factor.
“We have a system in Pakistan where the state and judicial recourse are absent and the vacuum is filled by local elders,” he said.
“A combination of legal reforms, exercise of administrative authority and social awareness can greatly help check the honour killings,” he added.
Earlier this month, a Belgian court sentenced four members of a Pakistani family to prison for the murder of their daughter and sister, who defied them by living with a Belgian man and refusing an arranged marriage.