- Associated Press - Saturday, June 2, 2012

THATHA PIRA, Pakistan (AP) — After six years of abuse, Allah Rakhi was walking out of her marriage when her husband struck again. Snatching a knife, he sliced off her nose. “You’re no longer beautiful!” he shouted.

He then slashed at her foot — brutal punishment for leaving the house without his permission.

“A woman is only a woman inside the home, outside she’s a whore!” he yelled at Rakhi as she lay bleeding on the dusty street just outside her home.

That was 32 years ago.

All that time, Rakhi hid her disfigured face under a veil. Then in March, a surgeon took up her case. He cut flesh from her ribs and fashioned it into a new nose, transforming her life.

While the details of every case of violence against Pakistani woman differ, many are based on a concept of “family honor.” Women can be targeted for suspicion of an affair, wishing to divorce or dressing inappropriately. Hundreds women are murdered each year because of mere suspicions.

The nose is considered the symbol of family honor in Pakistan — explaining why a woman’s nose is often the target of spousal abuse. A popular plea from parents to children is “Please take care of our nose,” which means, “don’t do anything that tarnishes the reputation of the family.”

Rooted in tribal ideas that a woman’s chastity is the property of the man, honor killings are practiced in much of the Arab world and South Asia. They have also been carried out by immigrants from those regions to the West.

Pakistani courts have a history of letting off offenders or giving them only light punishment, assuming the cases get to trial at all.

Rakhi’s husband, for example, served just 10 months in jail before being released in exchange for a commitment to pay her medical bills. He never did.

Accurate statistics on the extent of honor crimes are hard to come by, because many cases go unreported or are settled out of court under pressure from the families of the victim and the attacker.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that in 2011, at least 943 women were murdered, nine had their noses cut off, 98 were tortured, 47 set on fire and 38 attacked with acid.

Efforts to introduce stronger laws to increase punishments for violence against women have been blocked by an Islamist political party which publicly supports the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. The party, Jamiat Ulema Islam, is a member of the ruling coalition.

The lower houses of parliament passed the bill, but the JUI is preventing its passage through the upper house.

“We will never let it happen,” said JUI senator Maulana Ghafoor Haideri, who said the bill was an attempt to “Westernize” Pakistan. “It will ruin our family institutions,” he said.

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