In the United States, fathers like to joke with their daughters about pulling out shotguns if guys start hanging around, but I doubt many would consider bringing acid into play for casting a sideways glance at even the most wayward of bad boys. Sadly, this is exactly what happened to a 15 year old Pakistani girl this year as was reported by BBC news on Monday. According to the report, a Pakistani couple, Mohammad and Zaheen Zafar, poured acid on their daughter resulting in her death. The girl's death offers a brutal example of why so-called "honor killings" are a serious issue of concern on an international level and brings into the forefront where the real war on women is taking place.
So what was the cause of this latest horrific act of "honor"?
It appears the young girl had cast her eye in the direction of a boy riding by on a motorcycle. According to her father, who spoke to BBC from his prison cell, they had warned the 15 year old before about looking at boys.
"There was a boy who came by on a motorcycle. She (Anusha) turned to look at him twice. I told her before not to do that, it's wrong. People talk about us because our older daughter was the same way", he said.
Her parents, claiming fear for the family honor, proceeded to throw acid on her. Afterwards, the girl's mother recounted her daughter's response:
"She said 'I didn't do it on purpose. I won't look again.' By then I had already thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way"
As an American citizen, and considering all the rules and regulations put into place here in the United States to prevent the abuse and harm of children, hearing about these kinds of things definitely comes as a shock, as few of us could fathom doing such a thing to our children. Still, it seems there is more to the story than is being told.
According to the father, the family had already come under some censure by members of their community as a result of action by their older daughter, though the family failed to divulge these details to interviewers. It is also rumored that the girl had actually had an affair with the boy in question, leading to the "honor killing".
In looking at some data provided by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in the last year nearly 1,000 women were killed in the name of "honor". Even more shocking--only about 20 were given any kind of medical care before their deaths. Though these numbers are disturbing, even more so is the fact that this only accounts for reported deaths, as it is certain many more go on without report. Here is an excerpt from the most recent Human Rights commission report:
"Throughout the year, women were callously killed in the name of honour when they went against family wishes in any way, or even on the basis of suspicion that they did so. Women were sometimes killed in the name of honour over property disputes and inheritance rights. According to media monitoring and field reports from HRCP volunteers, at least 943 women were killed in the name of honour, of which 93 were minors. The purported reasons given for this were illicit relations in 595 cases and the demand to marry of their own choice in 219 cases. The murderers were mostly brothers and husbands, in 180 cases the murderer being a brother and in 226 cases being the husband of the victim. The majority of cases (557) were of married women. Before being killed, at least 19 women were raped, 12 of them gang raped, and the means used were mostly firearms but also blunt weapons and strangulation. Among the honour killing victims were seven Christian and two Hindu women. Only 20 women killed in the name of honour were reported to have been provided medical aid before they died."
In learning about this story and thinking about its implications, in many ways, though we may suffer from some issues of inequality for women in the United States, it is refreshing to see how far we have come, while also saddening to consider the life some women lead in places far from our minds most days. In the words of tweeter, @RafaArribas these honor killings are,
"The real war on women. "