There is no doubt that Pakistan is becoming a more violent society, especially for women.  Recently news erupted that a brother used a kitchen knife to murder his sister as he flew into a rage after catching her using a mobile phone.  With all the talk of breaking barriers and achieving success regarding women’s rights, one wonders if there is truly any change, with the basic ideology still intact in favor of such crimes.

Passing effective and progressive legislation – such as the recent Women Protection Bill 2016 – is only part of the process, as that legislation needs to be interpreted and applied by the court before change can take place. It is here, in between the fine margins of definitions and legal trickery, that obsolete and extremist stances operate. 

For example, Pakistan amended its criminal code in 2005 to prevent men who kill female relatives escaping punishment by pardoning themselves as an "heir" of the victim.  But it is left to a judge's discretion to decide whether to impose a prison sentence when other relatives of the victim forgive the killer -- a loophole which critics say remains exploited. In the case of honor killings – where the victims of the families and the accused are one and the same – arguments on honor sways discretion and sympathetic judges are not hard to find.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to eradicate the "evil" of honour killings in February but he hasn’t been able to remove even this loophole.

Recently, in another instance, Sharmeen Obaid’s documentary ‘ A Girl in the River’, highlighting how girls are killed, if they do not ‘honor’ their male relatives  was shown at a local university. What should have been considered shocking was not the reaction of some of the male students, who cheered at the statement of the father, who murdered his own daughter for ‘honour’. The female students responded to the boys’ clapping with applauding at the girl victim when she talked of forgiving her father and uncle. The incident shows that how deeply ingrained such concepts are, but also shows – in the female student’s response – that this can be changed.

This has made it clear that women are paying with their lives; simply telling their stories has not saved them and will not save them.  Deeper effort is required, a local and grass-roots conversation directed at those for whom family, honor and survival are intertwined. Until a concentrated effort is made to de-radicalise the masses, laws and regulations will never achieve full potential.