Those of us who’ve seen the show How to Get Away With Murder might enjoy the twists and turns of characters trying desperately to cover tracks that could lead to their place in prison. But the truth of the matter is, getting away with murder can be much simpler.
In Pakistan, punishment for murder can be evaded on the premise of forgiveness. Yes, you read it. Pakistani law allows families of victims to “forgive” a killing, meaning that if a man kills his daughter and is forgiven, he could live as a free man.
One would think that a family of a victim of murder would not want such a thing, but Pakistan’s long embedded social structure allows it.
This year, a powerful Oscar-nominated documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, tells the story of a 19-year-old Pakistani woman who survived her father and uncle’s cold-blooded attempt to kill her. Like any young woman would in the height of her youth, Saba Qaiser, fell in love and ran away with her boyfriend–against her family’s wishes.
In Pakistani culture, the ultimate dishonor that can be brought to a family is disobedience, especially when it comes to marriage without approval. This act of defiance is often met with blades, blood, and ultimately murder, an honor killing to restore honor in the family.
For Qaiser, her pursuit of love was met with a shot to the face, her father pulled the trigger merely hours after her wedding. Miraculously, she survived to testify against her father but her family and even elders of her community insisted that she forgive him, and she did. Her father was then released from prison, feeling proud of attempting to kill his daughter.
In his brief time behind bars, her father said, “She took away our honor. If you put one drop of piss in a gallon of milk, the whole thing gets destroyed. That’s what she has done…So I said, ‘No, I will kill you myself.’”
Although no one is safe from an honor killing, women are often the targets. According to the Washington Post, 1,000 women’s lives are cut short in Pakistan annually.
These shocking numbers stem from gender inequality. Women in societies like Pakistan are to be sheltered from men and temptation. Any breach of modesty can easily lead to an honor killing, a terrible fate.
But murder is a crime, regardless of any ‘honorable’ justification. It is a crime against women. It is a crime against humanity.