Monday, August 21, 2006

"Honor Killing" in Italy Condemned

The archbishop of Lahore condemned the "honor killing" of a young Pakistani woman in Brescia, in northern Italy, for refusing an arranged marriage.

Mohammed Saleem cut his daughter's throat on Aug. 11 for having purportedly dishonored her family by refusing the arranged marriage, and by working in a bar and living with a 30-year-old Italian man, reported AsiaNews.

In Pakistan "honor killing" remains a widespread phenomenon -- some 1,015 cases were reported last year.

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore told AsiaNews that "there is no justification of such killing for the sake of the family's honor."

"It is an old and unjust feudal practice in Pakistan that denies women the right to make decisions on their own," explained Archbishop Saldanha, who also heads the Catholic bishop's conference of Pakistan.

"Because of such a practice, honor killings often occur. Although it is rare, it even happens among Christians," he said. "Once they reach a certain age, freely choosing one's spouse is a fundamental right and we cannot deny it."

The archbishop added: "This type of incident is earning Pakistan a bad name.

"People who go to foreign countries should accept to live in an international culture, adhere to international values based on universal human rights. And if they cannot adjust to international values and norms, they should come back to Pakistan."


According to Peter Jacob, executive secretary to the National Commission on Justice and Peace, honor crimes are commonplace in Pakistan and the government is not doing enough to discourage them.

"If this murder happened in Pakistan," he said, "the grandfather or the mother of the killed girl would have gone to the police station to report the case against the murderer."

"This would make them both plaintiffs as well as guardians of the accused. The murderer would be arrested, sent to jail, and after some time, he would be forgiven. This way within a couple of months he would be free."

Jacob and other groups have been campaigning to abolish laws that are discriminatory toward minorities and women.

He said, however, that "the government doesn't really listen. Although it implemented some changes in 2004 so that honor killings are now considered common murders, it has failed to apply them."

According to Madadgaar, an organization set up by Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) and UNICEF, 1,015 honor killings occurred in 2005 compared with 1,349 the previous year.

But for LHRLA president Zia Ahmed Awan, the figures do not paint the actual picture since it is estimated that only one honor killing in 10 is reported.

New values

Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia in Italy, and president of the Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Italian bishops' conference, said on Vatican Radio that "without a doubt it is necessary for someone entering a country to accept the institutional framework that governs the life of such a country."

"This episode, sadly, is not the first and this case forces us to reflect on the complexity of the different planes on which this problem should be addressed," he added.

The bishop also reflected on "the relationship between immigration and resident citizens."

"If on one hand it is necessary to clarify the juridical framework," he said, "on the other it is necessary to have the great courtesy to work for a positive integration," which requires effort and commitment.

Bishop Paglia also underlined that, given this incident, "the condemnation should be clear and firm, because ... there is no reason at all in the world that can impede or attenuate the condemnation of a murder."

(Source: Zenit News Agency)

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