In recent global reports, some controversial events concerning marriage laws, beliefs and rituals are gaining valuable attention. These stories tend to directly oppose some of the values cherished in the Western world. For example, the ability to actually fall in love and marry a life partner through choice, rather than through a complex set of rules can be challenged by many societies. Due to a modernisation and globalisation of these values and human rights views, as seen in the case of Meriam Ibrahim, society is given the opportunity to see that if politicians and civilians unite with the aid of global forces such as social media; a crucial difference can be made and this may save innocent lives. This example may suggest that with action and awareness, these laws and beliefs could have a better chance of adapting, to help create a more open-minded, freer and safer world.
Shortly after their marriage, Muafia Bibi, a seventeen-year-old Pakistani woman and Sajjad Ahmed, her thirty-year-old husband had their lives ended. In what is known as ‘honour homicide,’ the girl’s relatives conducted this. In a similar situation earlier this year, the story of Farzana Iqbal initiated global outcry after the pregnant woman’s life was ended for marrying a man whose status challenged the values of her community. These practices end the lives of innocent people and unjustly remove their right to freedom and to the rest of their lives thus awareness on the topic is vital if changes are to be made.
It may be challenging to understand this action in reaction to a marriage or what we may perceive as inoffensive behavior. However, it is important to understand the views of others if an effective solution is to be reached. In the case of Muafia, her family admitted to police that they ended the couple’s lives due to feeling ‘embarrassed’ by her marrying a man from a tribe of different status to theirs; yet this is far from an acceptable reason to end the lives of innocent people.
It may be viewed through the completion of daily, sometimes hourly rituals and regimented ways of life, culture, tradition and values are at the absolute forefront of some communities. When entire communities share the same values, a family dealing with an internal opposition to the ethics they hold in high regard may be testing for their structure and foundation. Individuals may feel that they are challenged in finding an alternative solution to defend the reputation of their family or community, other than ending the lives of those concerned. Another challenging aspect is that ending the life of someone, whose behavior may be viewed as immodest by the hands of her family, is widely accepted in Pakistan and other countries sharing similar values. This is an act that needs to be eradicated in our world, moving forward, the challenge Muafia and Ahmed faced can inspire campaigners to seek justice for them.
Many may feel compassion for couple’s like Muafia and Ahmed, who after enjoying what could be a happy time, were faced with such challenging complexities and their futures were taken away from them. Additional to a commonly recognized rejection of the rituals involved in ‘honour homicides,’ perhaps by the majority of individuals, including many governments and charities, the difference is that the Human Rights Act supports individuals wishing to marry for love. The Human Rights Act refers to the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every individual in the world, it states that ‘men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and start a family.’
The fact that this issue is receiving an abundance of media attention is heightening awareness and could encourage productive action. Perhaps an initial mode of action could be a change in the acceptance of ‘honour homicides’ in these communities. An effective solution could be implementing laws to discourage the homicides. It is a challenge for justice that incarceration sentences for regular homicides fail to match sentences given to perpetrators of ‘honour homicides’. In order to deter these situations, this should be rectified. Additionally, it is important to educate citizens in the Human Rights Laws, which must be universally accepted. Addressing the particular religion involved (more commonly Muslim faith) could also help, by pointing out the fact that the religion far from advocates such behaviour.
Bringing this issue into the public eye and raising awareness about the complexities involved provides an opportunity for growth and can develop a global conversation. With each case reported, the cause can gain new momentum; new petitions and debates are started, throughout social media and email signature requests, such as those initiated by Amnesty International, for example. By building pressure, it is hopeful that governments and politicians will support this and implement their power, and progress a revolution in marriage laws, for global equality and to prevent more innocent lives from being ended.
How would you design a resource to aid couples like Muafia and Ahmed?