Saira Nusrat Bibi has become the latest victim in the barbaric cycle of arranged marriages and honor killings in Pakistan and other Middle Eastern countries. Forced into a marriage at age nine to a 45-year-old man, she had taken the extraordinary step to fighting for an annulment. She was winning in that effort, but (now 17) was denounced by many in the country as an heretic against Islam. Her parents have now killed her in the latest honor killing.
The death of Saira Nusrat Bibi followed the burying alive of as many as five women who asserted their right to marry men of their own choosing in Baluchistan, Pakistan — an act defended by legislators as an honored tradition. It also follows a case of a father burying alive his daughter in Palestine, here.
Once again, the question is how long the world will remain silent in the face of this human rights abuse. Forced marriages and honor killings violent basic human rights for women and girls in these countries. Cloaking them in religion, however, has pushed countries into silence. The very act of marrying a nine-year-old girl is an atrocity. While religious fanatics insist that such marriages are only allowed under Sharia law with consent, a nine-year-old child should lack the legal capacity to consent to such an arrangement. Countries have to treat these killings and the pattern of abuses of women as an international offense worthy of condemnation and, if necessary, sanctions.
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