Jerome Taylor: Violence is common where state justice is hard to come by


Related Topics

Across swathes of South Asia, and particularly in Pakistan, izzat (honour) and its counterpart sharam (shame) dominate day-to-day life.

The importance placed on upholding a family's standing within the wider community fosters a remarkable sense of belonging that enables relatives to pull together during times of immense difficulty. But it can also lead to astonishing levels of brutality.

Traditional Pakistani custom places enormous emphasis on collective responsibility, which means that the actions of one person can bring shame on an entire family. Divorce, affairs, extra-marital sex and marriage breakdowns are considered shameful acts that threaten the whole community's reputation. Violence is often considered the only way to wipe away this shame.

In Britain we have seen this reality meted out in the form of so-called honour killings, where young people are murdered by the people supposed to love and protect them. Although men are occasionally targeted, often it is women who bear the brunt of the violence.

That is because a woman's izzat is considered much more fragile than a man's. There is a saying used in Pakistan to describe how honour works, which compares a man to a stone and a woman to a sheet of silk. Drop a stone in mud, it is said, and the dirt can be quickly washed away. But a muddied silk sheet is ruined because the stains will remain forever.

Even seemingly minor arguments between families can explode into armed confrontation in what the Pakistani media calls "blood feuds". The areas most associated with blood feuds are the Pashtun tribal regions bordering Pakistan, where complex codes of honour known as "pashtunwali" compel tribe members to revenge one murder with another. Such feuds can pass between generations.

But places like the Punjab are not immune from feuding. Gujrat is a rural backwater of the Punjab where gun ownership is almost as common as in the tribal areas. It may not be geographically far from the provincial capital Lahore, the country's most cosmopolitan and liberal city, but culturally it is a million miles away.

The kidnapping earlier this year of Sahil Saeed, a five-year-old boy from Oldham, shed light on how British Pakistanis are increasingly vulnerable in their own ancestral homeland. They are wealthy compared to locals and are looked at as cash cows by criminal gangs.

What happens now depends on whether the Punjab police convict enough people to prevent a blood feud. In an area of the world where justice is often difficult to obtain through legal channels, it is little wonder that many people stick to an eye-for-an-eye retribution.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Clean energy should be our mission to the moon

Martin Rees
Angela Merkel and David Cameron say goodbye in the Bundeskanzleramt after their meeting in Berlin, Germany, 29 May 2015  

The complacency of Europhiles could lose them the referendum

Steve Richards
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral