At age 19, Saba eloped to marry a young man she loved. When her father called her home, supposedly to reconcile, he and her uncle shot her in the head, put her in a bag and threw her in a river in Pakistan. The reason? She had brought dishonor onto her family. As her father said, “I did the right thing. My honor has been restored.”
Amazingly, Saba survived and her powerful story is told in Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Academy Award winning film, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.
Every year over a thousand women are violently killed in the name of “honor” in Pakistan and their murderers are rarely punished. Even though Saba’s father and uncle were arrested, they walked free because under Pakistan’s current law, if victims or their families “forgive” perpetrators, charges are dropped. Facing intense pressure from the male “elders” in her community, Saba was forced to “forgive” her father and uncle and abandon her hopes for justice.
There is hope! The film has re-invigorated a focus on “honor” killings in Pakistan, and in February, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif publicly declared his intention to end them. Equality Now first started work on this issue in the 1990s, and we’ve partnered with the filmmakers to advocate for a strong law in Pakistan that makes no allowances for compromise or forgiveness in “honor” crime cases. Only then will the government fulfill its obligations to women and girls to have zero tolerance for crimes against them.