May 30, 2014

Four-in-Ten Pakistanis say honor killing of women can be at least sometimes justified

About four-in-Ten Pakistanis say ending a woman's life -- so-called honor killing -- is justified if she has shamed her family.
Members of Pakistan’s civil society hold protest to condemn the killing of Farzana Parveen, a 25-year-old pregnant woman who was stoned to death earlier this week. (Credit: AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for “immediate action” Thursday over the stoning death of a pregnant 25-year-old woman in Lahore earlier this week. Farzana Parveen’s murder, carried out by her family members because she married a man without their consent, has shined a light on so-called “honor killing,” a practice in which relatives end the lives of women and men who are said to bring shame to the family.

Stoning death of 25-year-old Pakistani woman puts focus on views about honor killingsSharif called Parveen’s death “totally unacceptable,” but a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2011 found that the Prime Minister’s position is unlikely to resonate with all Pakistanis.

Honor killings claim the lives of more than 1,000 Pakistani women every year, according to a Washington Post story citing a Pakistani organization that advocates against honor killings.  In the last few years, honor killings in Pakistan have gained international attention, with cases ranging from women refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, seeking a divorce or having a pre- or extra-marital affair.

In the Lahore case, Parveen’s father told police that he sought his daughter’s killing because her marriage to the man without his permission “had insulted all of our family.”

The Pew Research survey did not ask about children marrying without the consent of their parents, but did ask about ending a woman’s life if she engages in premarital sex or adultery.  Four-in-ten respondents said that the practice was justified, including three-in-ten (30%) who said it was often justified and 9% who said it was sometimes justified. About half said that ending a woman’s life to protect family honor was rarely (5%) or never (46%) justified.

Although the issue of honor killings is mostly associated with women, a third of Pakistanis said that honor killings of men can be often (23%) or sometimes justified (10%). A slim majority of Pakistanis (57%) said the practice was rarely, if ever justified when men engage in premarital sex or adultery.

  1. Photo of Neha Sahgal

    is associate director of religion research at Pew Research Center.

  2. is a Senior Writer/Editor for the Pew Research Center Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.


  1. Ska2 years ago

    It is ridiculous to say, as many apologists do, that “honor killings have nothing to do with Islam.”. Suppose I build a pyre in an town of ignorant conformists, preach a sermon that women are inferior and contemptible and must be controlled at all costs and that men shoukd feel shamed if a female relative exercises any autonomy. Suppose I furthermore preach that God likes bloodthirsty punishments (chopping off hands, stoning) and approves of killing for sexual sins (gay sex, adultery) and that people who step out as individuals (apostates, blasphemers) should also die. Then suppose I place rope, lighter fluid and a box of matches at the foot of the pyre. Then suppose I rule that only males can be legislators, police, judges, and tribal leaders.

    What Am I? I am Islam.
    Who will burn on the pyre I built? Women.
    And when the screams of women echo (as they echo from all across the Muslim world) and the flames blaze, I will fatuously announce to all the cheering Muslim men and all the stupid non-Muslim liberals that “It is not my fault! I am not the one who lit the match!”

  2. Greg Noonan3 years ago

    The western world won’t change their mind the revolution must come from the Muslim moderates and those against these Shari type law extremes. It makes me sick to my stomach that so may accept this barbaric misogyny.

  3. Gerry Muirhead3 years ago

    Those people who condone or carry out these “honour killings” are no better than savages living in the dark ages.

    1. Resiliant3 years ago

      Here is the good news: Men who mistreat women will come back in the next life as very poor, uneducated women.

      1. Betty3 years ago

        The abuser would know why he sank so low. Justice! Since I don’t believe in reincarnation, I conclude there’s a place in hell for him.

  4. Susan H3 years ago

    “Because she married a man without their consent” – shouldn’t that be “claimed she married…”? The husband maintains the family consented, and only later turned against him, over money. Sounds like sloppy reporting.

  5. abdroheem3 years ago

    this not a islamic law

  6. Andy3 years ago

    Well, this has nothing to do with Islam, it is an old middle eastern tradition started before Islam. The solution is arresting the family members who committed this crime and sever punishment. Empty words of condemnation will never solve this problem.

  7. Mac Hoban3 years ago

    Islam and the rule of law do not sit well together. Apart from the direct competition between sharia “laws” and legislated law, there is a culture of loyalty to one’s group rather than a loyalty to principle.

    Only the values of The Enlightenment consistently promote the principle of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Just about every religion pays lip service to this idea but they all allow their superstitions to compromise fair and consistent application.

    1. Chris3 years ago

      The values of the “Enlightenment”? How about CATHOLICISM and Jesus Christ which is what the Enlightenment was born out of ?

      The answer to the problems of the world lie in the Son of God and His Church-the Catholic Church-Repent, be baptized and start living according to His grace! It is the great invitation, the greatest invitation we have ever received.

      1. Anonymous1 year ago

        More expansionist mono-theistic divisive crap. All the holy books are man written and if they’re not god is an idiot.

  8. Steve3 years ago