Pakistan’s parliament has unanimously passed a law against so-called “honour killings”, three months after the murder of a social media star.
It closes a loophole allowing killers to walk free after being pardoned by family members. In future perpetrators of honour killings will face a mandatory life sentence.
A joint session of the lower and upper houses of parliament, broadcast live on television, approved the new law.
The move has been welcomed by a film-maker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, whose Oscar-winning documentary highlighted the issue.
“You can go into small towns and villages across Pakistan and you will find that people think that honour killing is not a crime because nobody ever goes to jail for it. So, I wanted to start a national discourse about honour killings because people need to realise that it is a very serious crime. It is not something that is part of our religion or our culture and this is something that should be treated as premeditated murder and people should go to jail for it,” she said earlier this year.
Under the new law, relatives can forgive convicts in the case of a death sentence, but they would still have to face a mandatory life sentence.
The same parliamentary session also passed an anti-rape law, making it mandatory for a perpetrator to get 25 years in jail.
The government had been under pressure to pass the law against honour killings since the murder of social media star Qandeel Baloch. Her posts on the internet enraged her brother who strangled her.
Some 500 women are killed each year in Pakistan by family members who feel their honour has been damaged by some perceived contravention of conservative values – which can involve eloping, or simply fraternising with men.