Newspaper article International New York Times

Efforts to Stop Honor Killings in Pakistan Get Oscar Boost

Newspaper article International New York Times

Efforts to Stop Honor Killings in Pakistan Get Oscar Boost

Article excerpt

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the award-winning filmmaker, says she hopes "A Girl in the River" can "play a small part in getting legislation passed" despite deep resistance.

The latest Academy Award for a filmmaker from Pakistan is focusing attention on so-called honor killings of women in the country, with the prime minister and other senior officials vowing to strengthen laws against the practice.

On Sunday, the filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, won the Oscar for best documentary short for her film "A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness," which depicts the survivor of an attempted honor killing who was forced to publicly forgive her family for trying to murder her.

Rights activists in Pakistan have been pressing the state for decades to halt the attacks, in which family members believe they are restoring their honor by killing women who have eloped or had an unsanctioned relationship outside marriage. But such attacks have remained common, with more than 700 women killed in Pakistan in 2014 alone, according to statistics by the Aurat Foundation, a women's rights advocacy group.

Before traveling to the United States for the Academy Awards ceremony, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy screened "A Girl in the River" at the official residence of Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. Later, in congratulating her for the award, her second, Mr. Sharif announced that his government was "in the process of legislating to stop such brutal and inhumane acts in the name of honor."

Initial work on a law has already started, according to Maiza Hameed, a lawmaker in Mr. Sharif's party who is working on the effort. Despite that official support, efforts to improve protections for Pakistani women remain fraught and face deep resistance.

A new honor killing was reported in Lahore just this week, according to Agence France-Presse. Recently, right-wing parties have protested a new law enacted by legislators in Punjab Province that offers protection to victims of domestic violence. The influential conservative politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman called the law a "humiliation of husbands."

In a telephone interview, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy said she was happy to have at least restarted conversation about honor killings. "The thing about Pakistan is that if you want change and if you want to struggle for change in that country, there's always a heavy price to pay," she said, adding that "if my film can hopefully play a small part in getting legislation passed and introspection on why this exists in our society, how it manifests, it's a victory."

In rural areas, in a traditional practice known as karo kari, landlords and leaders of tribes convene a meeting after a couple has eloped or is discovered to have a relationship, and they issue a verdict that the couple be put to death. …

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