In some cultures love is a crime, punishable by death. That’s the case with this report coming out of the country of Pakistan.
Two teenagers who bucked tradition in Pakistan are dead after their families carried out brutal punishment for their rebellion, the Sun reports. The teenage lovers were thwarted when they tried to elope, then were dealt electric shocks to accomplish “honor killings” in the port city of Karachi, police said.
The two youngsters were both under 18, the girl was 15 and her boyfriend was 17. They were found by a jirga to have brought dishonor to their community when they ran away together last month. A jirga is a group of rural tribal elders who dole out judgment and punishments in some communities. They make their decisions by consensus, according to the teachings of Pashtunwali, a non-written ethical code.
Jirgas are typically convened to settle local disputes, often between poor families. They operate outside the law, and their decisions are often honored by the tribe and ignored by authorities.
In this situation, the Sun reports, the two families had reached a resolution privately. The young couple was to get married, and the girl’s family was to be paid a financial settlement.
“The girl’s side had agreed but not the jirga, and they warned that if the two families did not carry out the barbaric deed, their family in their village back home would have to bear the consequences,” said Zia Ur Rehman, a Pakistani journalist who first reported on the case.
Police officer Aman Marwat arrested the two fathers and two uncles said to be involved. He confirmed, “The innocent souls were tied to a charpai (rope bed) and given electric shocks.”
Marwat continued, “The girl was killed and buried first followed by the murder of the boy the next day.”
He said police are now pursuing 30 members of the jirga who have gone into hiding.
According to Newsweek, a United Nations estimate from 2000 found that each year, 5,000 women are killed by relatives for bringing dishonor upon their families.
According to Newsweek:
“The figure for these so-called honor killings is both outdated and likely inaccurate A spokesman for the U.N. Population Fund tells Newsweek that since most honor killings happen ‘in areas where the social-cultural foundations are more accepting of this type of activity,’ they are often not reported or passed off as natural deaths. (The organization says it updates its statistics periodically and has not yet produced an update on the 2000 figure.) Some countries have their own independent estimates for the number of honor killings, but the familial collusion that frequently surrounds these deaths renders the figures unreliable.”
In Pakistan, according to the Sun, more than 500 people die each year in honor killings. Almost all of them are women, and the punishments are usually carried out by members of the victim’s family.
Marwat, a 25-year police vet, said he has dealt with many honor killing cases happening in Karachi.
“It indicates a tribalization of society, where jirgas exercise more power than law enforcers,” said Zohra Yusuf, a human rights activist in Pakistan.
Tribal councils and social pressures in Pakistan, often more powerful than the law, are reflected in the details of this case.
“Laws seem useless,” said Maliha Zia Lari, associate director with Karachi-based Legal Aid Society. “The boy’s father did not think he could seek protection from the state and the jirga members did not fear any reprisals from it either.”
In July, another case of cruelty in the Pakistani tribal court justice system made headlines. Village elders ordered a 17-year-old girl to be raped as a punishment for her brother’s crime. The teen girl’s brother was accused of the rape of a 12-year-old girl in South Pakistan. The elders all decided to punish the male rapist by ordering his teenage sister to be raped.
In May, a young girl was sentenced to death by a tribal court after she reported her own rape. Leaders of the tribe said the girl had “seduced” her rapist.
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