Karo-Kari: Women and the black sheep

A shot was fired. It was heard by all the people in the village. Everyone was rushing towards that home, the last one in the corner of the village. Something terrible had happened. The loud cries of women were touching the sky. Cutting through the crowd, I also made my way to the spot.

A young woman, in her early twenties, was bleeding as she was laying on the muddy ground under a tree. She had wounds on her wrist and throat. The pellets of shotgun fired at her, from too close, had ripped the flash from her chin down the throat, leaving there a wide open hole. The flash of her left hand was also ripped where raw bones in the wrist could be seen . The blood was gushing out of her veins. An elderly man was putting milk in her mouth believing that it will give her temporary relief from the pain. Unfortunately, all of the milk was flowing out of that wide hole in her throat towards her chest. She was laying on that muddy floor quiet and still; two long tears were glistening from her eyes making their way down the cheeks. Her only daughter, hardly three years old, was crying loudly beside her while she had her eyes fixed at the little one.

After a while, a vehicle reached the spot. Her brother picked her in his hands along with her mother-in-law and they sat in the vehicle . She was being taken to the civil hospital in the city, some 10km away. But she couldn’t make it to the hospital. She breathed her last after she said something to her mother in law, Saleha:

” Do tell Hammad! It was not fair of him to accuse me with such baseless charge. It hurts me more than the wounds. If he had to kill me, couldn’t he have done that without accusing me”?

This was an incident of Karo-kari (honour killing) that happened in my village, somewhere in Jecobabad in 2003. Hammad murdered his wife Hafsah accusing her of having an illicit relation with his distant cousin. The people didn’t approve it since there were already some doubts that Hammad was in relation with another woman and wanted to marry her. To get rid of her wife, this was supposed to be a workable excuse for him to accuse her of Karo-kari. According to the rules of this inhuman practice, both the accused man and woman have to be killed. Not surprisingly, majority of accused men get away with it. In this case too, nothing happened to the accused man. So, it is very easy to kill a woman because there is no one really on her side to defend her when she is accused of karo-kari.

Once betrothed, she exclusively belongs to the family in which she is married.

I was almost 10 years old by then. At that very young age, I didn’t understand
what Karo-Kari was. For me a murder was a murder, it still is. The sight of the
poor girl and her little daughter terrified me and I have never forgotten it.
Resultantly, I started thinking critically about violence against women. With
time, I have come to understand many a shocking things about so called honour
killings. Firstly, they are not honour killings, no honour is involved in them.
Reasons behind these so called honour killings are fishy and ugly.

These men disguised as very pious and respectable, would come into their beastly form as soon as they have an opportunity and force themselves on their own family’s women. On resistance, they would threaten them of dire consequences. In the majority of cases related to honour killings, you would find that a woman was killed by her in-law etc.

In some cases of honour killings, the real background is the one mentioned above. The poor woman cannot talk about this to anyone. There is no one to defend her in that case. In any case, she will be blamed. Even if she shares that with her womenfolks, they will shut her up. If she shares that with her husband, she would definitely get killed anyhow.

However, there is no surety that her husband would do anything against that black sheep in the family. There may remain some form of animosity between them. But he cannot make his name public for what he had done and kill him for that. That’s a taboo within that criminality because if disclosed, it is thought, it will bring bad name to family. So, they won’t do it. A law comes into force when an FIR is made or a crime is done in public. There is no law to deal with domestic abuse. Unless women are not protected within their own homes, no remedy can empower an average woman or her children in the (free) state of Pakistan. 

The author of this story tried standing up to the traditions of his own people, in his village – alas, he got tired and left. We pray no one ever falls prey to such circumstances or situations when they come across such haunting realities as he did. They still haunt him, at present. We hope that, in time, such taboos and abuses are dealt with and discouraged not just by the law but the people themselves.

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