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The Tragedy of False Honor: Why Violence Against Women Must Stop

There are no words to describe the sadness I feel as I have read the recent headlines in the news:

A young, pregnant Pakistani woman is stoned to death by her own family because they did not approve her marriage. To add to the atrocity, her husband admitted to killing his first wife so he could marry her. In Nepal, a man set his pregnant wife on fire in a demand for a dowry. In India, two young girls were found hanging after being gang-raped. This, all within the last two months.

These tragedies shake me to the core. It should shake all of us - both women and men - as human beings.

There is no honor in these vicious acts and so-called "honor" killings. They are just dire reminders that violence against women is alive and well. They diminish women to nothing more than disposable property, devoid of rights. This must come to an end.

But how many such tragedies must occur in our world before there is decisive and preventive political action and social change that respects women's choices around their own lives?

I find no comfort in knowing that some women have desperately rebelled against their perpetrators with violence - like the Afghani woman who set her husband on fire after years of abuse. It is shameful when a woman can only be heard by resorting to such similar acts of brutality - and even then justice is not always in her favor.

I find some comfort from those around me who are working tirelessly to change this. My colleague, Tauseef Ahmed, Pathfinder's country representative for Pakistan, reminded me of this.

"In order to empower women for their safety and security, we must involve the entire community," he said. "This is what Pathfinder does. This is how we do our part to bring an end to such horrible tragedies."

There is a lot you and I can and must do to end this - without violence. It is the responsibility of us all - men and women alike - to respond, to stand up, to demand change. We cannot shift the culture of violence, the tolerance of turning a blind eye to abuse or the deep-rooted belief that a man owns a woman without men and women working together to change the status quo.

There is so much for us to gain in this world if people could see beyond this distorted concept of "honor." True honor lies in caring for those we love, in seeing them as human beings, and cherishing their lives - regardless of whether they are a man or a woman.

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