What you need to know about stonings and honour killings
THE stoning death of a pregnant Pakistani woman has shocked the world, but hers is far from being an isolated case. Here’s what you need to know about stonings and ‘honour killings’.
WHAT IS STONING?
DEATH by stoning is as simple as it is horrible. A group of people drop or hurl stones on a person until they die. In some cases the victim is partially buried to hold them in place. According to a 2008 Amnesty International report, Iran’s penal code also dictates that the stones used in a stoning should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes — nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones”.
IS IT A MUSLIM THING?
No … and yes. Stoning is not mentioned in the Koran, but it is used as a punishment under Sharia Law in a number of predominantly Muslim countries, including Iraq, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Pakistan. It has also been practised in some states of Nigeria and in Aceh in Indonesia.
DOES IT TARGET WOMEN?
Predominantly. One of the crimes punishable under Sharia law is adultery, but activists argue that stoning “disproportionately targets and polices women and their conduct”. According to Amnesty, women in societies that permit stoning are more likely to be treated unequally before a court, more likely to be illiterate (and hence likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit) and more likely to suffer discrimination in other areas of their life that could leave them susceptible to a conviction for adultery. Homosexual activity by men and women is also punishable by stoning in some societies.
HOW DOES STONING RELATE TO HONOUR KILLINGS?
Stoning is but one method of performing an honour killing, albeit an extremely slow and painful one. Honour killings are the murders of family members who are believed to have brought shame upon their family or community, often but not always through their sexual activity.
HOW COMMON ARE HONOUR KILLINGS?
Numbers vary from country to country and are notoriously difficult to verify. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that 869 women were murdered in honour killings in 2013 alone.
ARE AUSTRALIANS INVOLVED IN HONOUR KILLINGS?
Yes. The first reported honour killing that involved Australian citizens happened within a Kurdish community in Iraq in 1999, but there have been other isolated cases since then. Sydney man Hazairin Iskandar was accused of committing an ‘honour killing’ on his wife’s rumoured lover and was sentenced to 17 years in jail in 2013.
WHAT DOES THE REST OF THE WORLD SAY ABOUT STONING?
The United Nations human rights office “voiced deep concern” — their words — when the Sultan of Brunei introduced Sharia law last month, including stoning for sodomy offences. OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville said the application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private contravened the rights to privacy, to equality before the law, the right to health and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Amnesty International has long campaigned against stoning throughout the world. A new campaign to boycott a chain of hotels part-owned by the Sultan of Brunei has also sprung up in recent months after the Sultan introduced Sharia law. The boycott of the Dorchester Collection of hotels has been bolstered by the support of celebrities including Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, Richard Branson, and most recently, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
Pregnant woman Farzana Parveen is stoned to death by her own family in Pakistan
A PREGNANT woman was stoned to death by her own family in front of a Pakistani high court on Tuesday for marrying the man she loved.
Nearly 20 members of the woman’s family, including her father and brothers, attacked her and her husband with batons and bricks in broad daylight before a crowd of onlookers in front of the high court of Lahore, police investigator Rana Mujahid said.
Hundreds of women are murdered every year in Muslim-majority Pakistan in so-called “honour killings” carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behaviour, but public stoning is extremely rare.
Mr Mujahid said the woman’s father has been arrested for murder and that police were working to apprehend all those who participated in the “heinous crime.”
Another police officer, Naseem Butt, identified the slain woman as Farzana Parveen, 25, and said she had married Mohammad Iqbal against her family’s wishes after being engaged to him for years.
Her father, Mohammad Azeem, had filed an abduction case against Mr Iqbal, which the couple was contesting, said her lawyer, Mustafa Kharal. He confirmed that she was three months pregnant.
Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, who view marriage for love as a transgression.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that some 869 women were murdered in honour killings in 2013.
But even Pakistanis who have tracked violence against women expressed shock at the brutal and public nature of Tuesday’s slaying.
“I have not heard of any such case in which a woman was stoned to death, and the most shameful and worrying thing is that this woman was killed in front of a court,” said Zia Awan, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist.
He said Pakistanis who commit violence against women are often acquitted or handed light sentences because of poor police work and faulty prosecutions.
“Either the family does not pursue such cases or police don’t properly investigate. As a result, the courts either award light sentences to the attackers, or they are acquitted,” he said.
Parveen’s relatives had waited outside the court, which is located on a main downtown thoroughfare. As the couple walked up to the main gate, the family members fired shots in the air and tried to snatch her from Mr Iqbal, her lawyer said.
When she resisted, her father, brothers and other relatives started beating her, eventually pelting her with bricks from a nearby construction site, Mr Iqbal said.
Mr Iqbal, 45, said he started seeing Parveen after the death of his first wife, with whom he had five children.
“We were in love,” he told the Associated Press. He alleged that the woman’s family wanted to fleece money from him before marrying her off.
“I simply took her to court and registered a marriage,” infuriating the family, he said.
Parveen’s father surrendered after the incident and called the murder an “honour killing,” Mr Butt said.
“I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it,” Mr Mujahid, the police investigator, quoted the father as saying.
Mr Mujahid said the woman’s body had been handed over to her husband for burial.