Pakistan's parliament has passed a law that stiffens the penalty for convicted "honour" killers and closes a loophole that often allowed them to go free.
The Bill was passed after a raucous debate
that lasted nearly four hours, with some of the loudest opposition
coming from hard-line Islamist politicians.
They wanted the
Islamic Ideology Council, a body of conservative Muslim clerics, to
weigh in on it before becoming law.
Supporters of the Bill flatly
refused, saying the council, which once ruled it was permissible for a
man to "lightly" beat his wife, routinely vetoes legislation aimed at
killings are a cancer in our society. This law is being presented
against this cancer," Naveed Qamar, a member of the opposition Pakistan
People's Party, said.
1,000 women were killed last year in so-called honour killings in
Pakistan, often by fathers, brothers or husbands. Such killings are
bound up with traditions by which a woman's chastity is vital to the
family's honour - so acts like a woman marrying the man of her choice,
meeting a man, or even just being seen sitting with a man could lead to
But those who carry out such killings are almost
never punished. In accordance with Islamic Shariah law, Pakistan allows
the families of victims to forgive the killer. Since the killers in
these cases are usually close relatives, the family almost always
The new law gives a mandatory 25 years in
prison to anyone convicted of killing in the name of honour and no
longer allows family members to forgive such killers. The law allows
forgiveness only of an "honour" killer is sentenced to death; if the
killer is forgiven, he would still have to serve the 25 years in jail.
law change has angered some conservative Islamists who said it violates
Shariah and imitates "Western laws" that give women too much
But supporters said they wanted the law to go
further. MP Nafeesa Shah said she had wanted any form of forgiveness
banned in honour killings.
"There are still some loopholes, but it meets the problem half-way," she said.
Yusuf, chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan,
which documents such killings, said: "It is one positive development."
legislation was originally introduced nearly a year ago by the
opposition People's Party. But because the practice of forgiveness is
part of Shariah, parliament deferred it to a committee to try to build a
The conservative Pakistan Muslim League took up
the Bill but added the possibility of forgiveness for the death penalty
as a concession to religious parties.
"We have to work
within certain confines... but we have taken this step and we have come
so far," government MP Shaista Pervaiz Malik said.