Archive for Caste

Caste in Pakistan: The Elephant in the Room

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , on August 25, 2009 by Umer


Shahbano Aliani

A pregnant woman from a remote rural village in Tharparkar goes to a private hospital in Hyderabad. The medical staff refuse to attend to her, saying they do not want to pollute their instruments and dirty their hands. Feeling humiliated and angry, she returns to her village without having received the services she needed.

A 20 year old woman from Peshawar is brutally murdered by her brothers and father for attempting to marry outside the biradari and bringing shame to the family honour.

A young Kolhi girl is abducted while working in the cotton fields of a landlord outside Mirpurkhas. She is forced to convert to Islam and marry her abductor. The police refuse to register a case and her family is advised to remain silent for the sake of their own safety.

In a village in Southern Punjab, a young boy from a “lower-caste” is accused of dishonouring the “high caste” tribe by having an affair with one of their women. The village panchayat orders the gang rape of the boy’s sister by the “high caste’ men so that they may restore the honour of their tribe.

These stories have a familiar ring. Variants occur with alarming regularity in Pakistan; some covered by the media, but most covered up by the silence, fear and helplessness of the victims; and the indifference of the rest of society.

Continue reading

In the name of honour

Posted in Communist Movement, Law, Marxism with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2009 by Umer

The Aug. 15-29, 2008 issue of the Frontline carried the theme of caste-based violence and killings in the name of honour. The urgent relevance of the topic emerged from the an instance in Dharana, near Haryana, where a local panchayat ordered the ouster of a family from a village on the grounds that a member of the family had married outside of caste in violation of the parampara (tradition).

The Red Diary has frequently raised the issue of caste system and emphasised the importance that caste plays in the socio-political make-up of the South Asian sub-continent. The Red Diary here presents the interview of Brinda Karat to Frontline regarding caste system and its impact women.

Interview with Brinda Karat, MP and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member.

ONE of the few parliamentarians with a record of raising women’s issues both in and outside Parliament, Brinda Karat feels that honour killings and honour-related harassment do not get the attention they deserve from the executive or the legislature. She says that it was time political parties came together on this issue. In an interview to Frontline, she explained the importance of recognising these crimes as a separate category and the need for special laws to deal with them as had been done in the case of sati. Excerpts:

In your view, how serious are honour killings and crimes related to honour? You raised this issue in the Rajya Sabha and it evoked a response from the Home Minister and several other members cutting across party lines

I had asked a question in Parliament on the number of killings relating to honour that had taken place so far and the reply I received from the government was that they do not recognise such a category and, therefore, there was no separate collection of such data.

According to a 2008 judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, it was stated that there were thousands of cases of young couples who had been victimised because they crossed the lakshman rekha determined by their communities, castes or families.

It is a shame that even today there is no legal definition of the term honour killing or honour crime. As a result, the perpetrators of such crimes more often than not get away with murder, torture, assault, and violation of laws regarding atrocities committed on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. And they continue to commit them with impunity.

The extent of the crime is underestimated, it is made invisible and young men and women just disappear without a trace as though they had never lived. Hence, it is essential for the government to not only define the crime but also start collecting separate data, for unless the existence of the crime itself is recognised, it is difficult to deal with it in any form.

Continue reading