In July last year, the honour killing of Qandeel Baloch sparked a debate about the loopholes present in laws of the country. These manipulations of the law have been allowing killers to walk free. Three months later, in October, anti-honour killings and anti-rape bills were unanimously passed in the joint session of the parliament of Pakistan. However, even a year later the number of honour killings in the country has not reduced.

According to an independent research conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), around 280 cases of honour killings were reported from October 2016 to July 2017. It is assumed that this number is still incomplete and underestimated; crimes against women, especially related to the vague notion of ‘honour’ are often hushed up and kept out of the legal system –hence they go widely unreported. However, the greater problem remains the fact that the courts are still acquitting people accused of honour killing.

The new laws, although well-intentioned and sufficiently tough, have faltered because of the same problems that plagued previous laws – the weakness of the legal system, and perverse loopholes in the draft law.

Although the law dictates that family members cannot avail pardon in case of an honour killing, and mandates life imprisonment if convicted. The problem arises when it is up to the judge to decide whether or not the murder was related to honour. And people have provided different motives to the court to sidestep the law’s ambit. Furthermore, the justice system is so slow that a case stretches over an excessive period of time, and that allows people to change their opinions in cases of Qisas and Diyat. A recent example is that of Qandeel Baloch’s father, who initially wanted his son to be punished for murdering his daughter. But over the span of a year, he now believes that his son is innocent and does not want him to serve time in prison.

The laws are not the problem; change is necessary at the departments that administer law, such as police, judges, lawyers and state prosecutors. They need to be trained in a manner which ensures a uniform treatment of crimes against women. The reason why these laws were introduced was to curb the problem, not provide yet another way around it.