On Monday, an “anti-terrorism” court in Lahore ordered that two men have their ears and noses cut off as punishment for doing the same to a woman who refused to marry one of them. According to Reuters, “The two brothers, Sher Mohammad and Amanat Ali, abducted their 22-year-old cousin, Fazeelat Bibi, at gunpoint in September after her father refused to let her marry Mohammad.” Government prosecutor Ehtesham Qadir told the news agency, “They put a noose around her neck and tried to strangle her. After failing to do so, Sher Mohammad chopped of her nose and two ears with a knife.” According to Punjab province chief prosecutor Chaudary Mohammed Jahangir, they mutilated her to “set an example.”
Fazeelat Bibi’s horrific and chilling story is tragically one of many honor crimes committed in Pakistan. In Honor: A History, author James Bowman cited NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who said, “On average, a woman is raped every two hours in Pakistan, and two women a day die in honor killings.” In an epidemiological study released in April 2009, the European Journal of Public Health found that one in every five homicides in Pakistan can be classified as an “honor killing,” the majority occurring “in response to alleged extramarital relations.”
The sentencing by Lahore’s anti-terror court [although honor crimes don’t really fall under “anti-terror” parameters, the Guardian noted, “Serious crimes are often referred to anti-terrorism courts in Pakistan because they move faster” and CNN said the crimes “created tyranny in the district“], is significant because it enacts an “eye-for-an-eye” form of justice, part of Islamic law [Shari’a] but also dating as far back as Hammurabi’s Code. For a woman who had her ears and nose cut off in the name of honor, such punishment, [which also includes the two men being sentenced to 50 years in prison and ordered to pay fines and compensation to the woman amounting to several thousand dollars] is some form of retribution for her suffering.
Such a story is interesting because it raises several issues for debate. First, are punishments within the realms and nuances of an honor society something we should condemn or champion? While human rights groups promoting both women’s rights and universal human rights may find this development a bitter pill to swallow, exacting justice in this manner could be a way of challenging the status quo from within. As such, should we see such a sentence, if carried out, as progress or too excessive? Second, given that this sentence needs to be certified by a High Court, and such courts have suspended similar sentences in the past, why do such discrepancies occur and is this something that should be further investigated?
Definitely some food for thought.