A pregnant Pakistani woman was stoned to death by nearly 20 members of her family on Tuesday, allegedly for marrying a man out of love and going against her family's wishes.
"I have not heard of any such case in which a woman was stoned to death, and the most shameful and worrying thing is that this woman was killed in front of a court," Zia Awan, a prominent Pakistani lawyer and human rights activist said, according to The Associated Press.
The 25-year-old woman, Farzana Parveen, is said to have been three months pregnant when her father, brothers, and other family members attacked her and her husband, Mohammad Iqbal, with batons and bricks in broad daylight before the high court of Lahore.
Police investigator Rana Mujahid confirmed that Parveen's father, Mohammad Azeem, has been arrested. The father had apparently filed abduction charges against Iqbal, which the couple was contesting. Parveen and Iqbal had been engaged for years and married against her family's wishes.
"I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it," Mujahid quoted the father as saying.
AP noted that public stonings in Pakistan, a largely Muslim country, are rare. Many conservative families view marriage for love as a transgression, and abide by arranged marriages.
Awan added that many people in Pakistan who commit violence against women are often acquitted or handed light sentences.
"Either the family does not pursue such cases or police don't properly investigate. As a result, the courts either award light sentences to the attackers, or they are acquitted," he said.
In April, a Christian couple was sentenced to death in Pakistan allegedly for committing "blasphemy" via text messages.
Lawyers have tried to explain that the messages in question could not have been sent by the couple, as the man and woman are illiterate.
"We are seriously concerned. Cases like these are common and cause great suffering. We continue to pray, while the issue remains unresolved," said Fr. Aloysius Roy, Superior of the Pakistani province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
"We express our solidarity, but Christians keep a low profile, because life is full of difficulties and dangers, and for us the first commandment is to survive. Christians are afraid and they move with extreme caution," he added.