The mysterious murder of Sana Cheema, a 27-year-old Italian woman of Pakistani origin has now been confirmed as a case of ‘honor killing’. The young woman was killed by her father and brother as per police. An Italian newspaper, Giornale di Brescia, had first reported that Sana Cheema was killed for ‘honour’. Sana’s friend claimed that she wanted to marry someone in Italy, against her family’s wishes. The news reports had said Sana’s parents had been forcing her to marry someone in the family in the days leading up to her murder. According to Italian media, Sana wanted to marry a man from Brescia who, like her, was a second-generation immigrant with Italian citizenship.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 1,096 women (of whom 170 were minors under the age of 18) were killed for ‘honor’ in 2015. As there are no official figures on ‘honor’ killings the real figure could be much higher, with many such killings believed to be disguised as accidents, or they go unreported by family members. Violence against women and girls including rape, murder through honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriages are issues that continue to haunt women in Pakistan.
In 2016, a British woman of Pakistani origin was killed by her father and her ex-husband in Jhelum after she married someone she loved in England. Pakistan adopted legislation against ‘honor killings’ in 2016, introducing tough punishment and closing a legal loophole that had allowed killers to walk free if pardoned by family members. But despite the legislation the occurrence of such incidents have not stopped. In fact in recent months there has been an escalation in brutal ‘honour’ crimes in the country.
When it comes to crimes against women, Pakistan’s record is rather unfortunate. The state has to do more to ensure that crimes against women are dealt with more urgency and legislations regarding such crimes must be improved if needed. The media can also play a major role by raising awareness on such issues.