Model Nayab Nadeem was strangulated to death by her stepbrother for honor at her residence in Lahore’s posh area. Observers maintain the horrific and grisly murder is an eye opener for Pakistan’s patriarchal society.
Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women, with cases of sexual crimes and domestic violence recording a rapid rise. Activists blame society’s patriarchal attitudes for the problem.

According to a report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the state of human rights for women in Pakistan is getting worse.

The report also highlighted other forms of violence against women, which include sexual and domestic violence prevalent across the country

Other human rights abuse to target women include child marriage and honour killings, which even though impact men as well, are largely centered on controlling and subjugating women according to experts.
The HRCP report reiterated Pakistan’s concerning standing on the Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum, where the country is placed third from bottom, i.e. 151 out of 153 countries.
According to the First Information Report of the incident, 29-year-old Nayab, a model by profession, was strangulated to death by her stepbrother at her house in Lahore’s DHA Phase-V.

The case was filed on the complaint of her step-brother Mohammad Ali, who was the first person to find the body. He stated that he had found her body lying on the floor when he came to visit her.

According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, over 1,000 cases of honour killings take place across the country every year.

“The numbers attest to the reality that, even as top-down initiatives such as legal reforms are pursued and prosecution of such crimes is encouraged, with little changes at the grassroots level. There, conservative villagers continue to egg on the murders of men and women perceived as errant,” notes writer and author Rafia Zakaria.

“The truth of the matter, whether any wrongdoing was actually done, is almost irrelevant; the power of the community, exercised through the ruling of Jirgas and Panchayats (which are tribal councils made up of community elders and other strongmen) is front and center.”

Nayab, indeed, is not the only victim of gender violence in Pakistan over the past several months.
In May, a bullet-riddled body of a Pakistani-origin British woman identified as Maya Zulfiqar was found at her rented house in Lahore’s DHA. She had arrived from the UK some two months back where her family was settled.

Zulfiqar, a law graduate, had been threatened by two men after she turned down marriage proposals from both of them, reported BBC citing legal documents. According to a police report filed by Zulfiqar on April 20, a man had abducted her at a gunpoint and attempted to sexually assault her a few days earlier. When she managed to run away by alerting bystanders, Zulfiqar said, the man threatened her, saying, “You won’t be able to escape; I will kill you.”

Earlier, model Qandeel Baloch was also strangled to death at her home in Punjab by her brother Wasim in 2016. It was a so-called honour killing – the murderer felt that the videos and photographs she had been posting online brought disrespect to their family. Baloch’s brother has now been sentenced for killing her but experts say the roots of this tragedy can also be traced to the judgement and scorn over her lifestyle in Pakistan.

Pakistan has several laws and policies against various forms of violence but challenges remain however in implementing these measures. Many women still lack access to free or affordable essential services in sectors such as health, police, justice and social support to ensure their safety, protection and recovery. Not enough is done to prevent violence, which is the most challenging but also effective way to eliminate violence in a sustainable way.

“Honour crimes seek to strengthen a social code by brutally punishing those who violate it. A parallel justice system exists, a court of public opinion. And there, the question remains: how complicit is this society in this killing? The jury is still out,” notes writer Sanam Maher, author of ‘A Woman Like Her: The Short Life of Qandeel Baloch’.

In October 2016, Pakistan passed a bill that fixed a loophole that allowed killers to escape prosecution if pardoned by the victim’s family. Previously, family members who were complicit in the crime could also forgive those who had committed it.

While honor killings in Pakistan now carry a life sentence, they remain common in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas –the majority are against women perceived to have brought shame on their families.
The passage of the 2016 bill has not made honor crimes go away in Pakistan.