Two parents in Pakistan-administered Kashmir have been arrested after throwing acid on their daughter Anusha after she looked at a boy.
When you hear the story, your whole body recoils. The hair on your forearms raises ever-so-slightly, goosebumps appear even though its 26 degrees outside and you can’t help but close your eyes and think: I am so very lucky to live where I do.
Mohammad Zafar and his wife Zaheen have spoken to the BBC from their cells in an attempt to defend their actions.
Anusha’s father said that he and his wife had warned their daughter about looking at boys in the past.
“There was a boy who came by on a motorcycle. She (Anusha) turned to look at him twice. I told her before not to do that, it’s wrong. People talk about us because our older daughter was the same way,” Mohammad said.
He admitted to physically dragging his daughter into the family home and beating her.
His wife confessed that Anusha had begged them for forgiveness.
“She said, ‘I didn’t do it on purpose, I won’t do it again.’ By then I had thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way,” she told the BBC.
“I deeply regret my action. I am repenting as I should not have done this. She was very innocent.”
Anusha would have suffered through truly excruciating pain, not only at the time of the attack but through the next two day period as she lay dying in her parents’ home. They did not take her to a hospital until it was too late.
A doctor told the Murdoch press that the teenager arrived at emergency in a “very critical condition” with burns to almost 70 per cent of her body. Anusha died on Wednesday.
So-called honour attacks are not uncommon in deeply conservative Pakistan. Women’s rights activists claim that more than 900 women were murdered during 2011, after being accused of bringing shame on their families.
The National Geographic News reports:
“In countries where Islam is practiced, they’re called honor killings, but dowry deaths and so-called crimes of passion have a similar dynamic in that the women are killed by male family members and the crimes are perceived as excusable or understandable,” said Widney Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
The practice, she said, “goes across cultures and across religions.”
Complicity by other women in the family and the community strengthens the concept of women as property and the perception that violence against family members is a family and not a judicial issue.
“Females in the family—mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, and cousins—frequently support the attacks. It’s a community mentality,” said Zaynab Nawaz, a program assistant for women’s human rights at Amnesty International.
Honour killings are a cultural practice and not a religious one; there is no mention of it in the Islamic holy book, the Koran.
Killings in the name of family honour exist in cultured that remain based on a devaluation of women within society, in that there is an implicit assumption that the woman’s value is completely erased by her bringing the family into ill repute.
The painful and slow nature of Anusha’s death is sadly not unusual. Honour killings are often carried out via methods that are designed to cause maximum pain to the victim before their eventual death. They include being buried alive and stoned.
900 women were killed this way last year alone.
For none of those women, should such a cruel and tortuous end have been their ‘destiny’.