Bishop condemns honour killing in Italy of Pakistani woman

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha from Lahore, Pakistan, has condemned the murder of Hina Saleem, whose father last week cut her throat in Brescia, Italy, because she refused an arranged marriage and was living with her Italian boyfriend.

With the cooperation of his family, expatriate Pakistani Mohammed Saleem cut his daughter's throat on 11 August because she refused an arranged marriage and instead wanted to integrate into Italian society.

Not only did she work in a bar where alcoholic beverages were served, she had entered in a common law relationship with a 30-year-old Italian man. For her conservative family, the scandal was too much to bear.

"There is no justification of such killing for the sake for the family's honour," Archbishop Saldanha (pictured) told AsiaNews.

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

But the Archbishop says that it is a practice not confined to Islam.

"Although it is rare, it even happens among Christians," he said.

"Once they reach a certain age, freely choosing one's spouse is s fundamental rights and we cannot deny it," he added.

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

"If this murder happened in Pakistan, 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."

Mr Jacob and other groups and NGOs have been campaigning to abolish laws that are discriminatory towards minorities and women. But "the government doesn't really listen. Although it implemented some changes in 2004 so that honour killings are now considered common murders, it has failed to apply them".

According to Madadgaar, a Pakistani NGO, 1015 honour killings occurred in 2005 compared to 1,349 the previous year but it is estimated that only one honour killing in ten gets reported.

Pakistani Catholic Church condemns Hina Saleem's murder (AsiaNews, 17/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Lahore

Murdered Pakistani woman: Third suspect searched for also abroad (Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 17/8/06)

18 Aug 2006