WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS - Terming it as an important step towards ensuring the protection of women in Pakistan, the United States and the United Nations have welcomed the country’s legislation against ‘honour killings.’

“We commend the efforts of the Government of Pakistan to end this practice,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby said, adding that this legislation is an important step toward protecting women and girls in Pakistan and promoting their full participation in society.

“Raising social awareness and holding perpetrators accountable are critical next steps, and we will continue to support Pakistan’s efforts,” he said.

The US regularly reports on violence against women and girls around the globe and works to prevent and respond to such violence, including advancing accountability by working with law enforcement, supporting civil society’s efforts, and engaging with critical stakeholders such as men and boys, Kirby said.

At UN Headquarters in New York, the Secretary-General Deouty Spokesman, Farhan Haq, also welcomed the legislation.

"Our various human rights mechanisms have expressed concern in recent years over the phenomenon of honour killings, and anything that helps bring an end to this particular practice is to be welcomed," he told reporters at the regular noon briefing.

A joint session of the lower and upper houses of parliament approved the new anti-honour killing law, removing a loophole in existing law that allows killers to walk free after being pardoned by family members.

Hundreds of Pakistani women die each year at the hands of relatives in so-called honour killings. Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission estimated last year that 860 honour killings were committed between January 2012 and mid-September 2015.