“I am facing threats. But I believe that death is preordained- when you are meant to die, you will!”
These were the words of Pakistani social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch in one of her last interviews, before she was killed by her own brother ‘for dishonouring the Baloch name.’
Ms. Baloch had built up a large social media fan-base, with 43,000 Twitter followers and more than 700,000 on Facebook. In a largely conservative nation like Pakistan, she appeared on television to speak about female empowerment, often dressed in non-traditional, or should we say, revealing clothes. She was against the norms of society and went on to do what she wanted, on her own terms. On July 4 she posted on one of her social handles, “I am trying to change the typical orthodox mindset of people, who don’t wanna come out of their shells of false beliefs and old customs.”
Clearly, when women take the courage to become more assertive and more reluctant to be content with submissive survival within the patriarchal system, then they apparently become a threat to their own family. There is no value to a woman’s life, if she doesn’t live in a particular way as expected by the society. No one deserves to die for their right to make choices.
It is estimated by the United Nations Population Fund, that as many as 5000 women and girls are murdered by family members each year, in so-called ‘honour killings’ around the world. To say, nearly 1,100 women were killed in Pakistan last year by relatives. According to police, a 15-member ‘Jirga’, a traditional assembly of leaders that make decisions by consensus as per Islamic teachings, had ordered a Pakistani girl named Amber, to be killed and set alight as punishment for helping her friend to marry of her own free will.
In another case, a Pakistani woman, Maria Bibi, was set on fire for refusing to marry a man twice her age. The prime suspect in the case, the father of the man she refused to marry, and the other four are in custody.
Not a long time back, a couple was arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of killing their 15-year-old daughter with acid. They carried out the attack because she looked at a boy. The girl’s father said that they feared she would bring ‘disgrace’ to their family. Her mother said it was her ‘destiny’ to die that way.
Pakistani court has given the death sentence to four people for bludgeoning to death a pregnant relative who had married without their consent. In another case, Farzana Parveen, 30, was beaten with bricks and sticks in May outside Lahore’s high court.
Even the recent Punjab law was criticized by misogynists, as they said it will increase the divorce rate and destroy the country’s traditional family system. The law strictly criminalized any violence against women. Moreover, they shamelessly insisted that they should be authorized to ‘lightly beat’ their wives.
Majority of the people protested against the murder of Qandeel on social media. There were voices telling, “If we start to kill our brothers & sons in the name of honour, the male species will become extinct.” While some supported the cold blooded crime. “When a girl decides to publish her naked pics for sake of publicity, what her brother is supposed to do?” asked one Islamabad-based Twitter user. Qandeel’s unrepentant brother said, “She wasn’t aware that I was killing her. I gave her a tablet and then, strangled her. I am not ashamed. We are Baloch and as Baloch, we cannot tolerate [this].”
As long as voices of the women are strangled before they escape their throats, as long as their actions are guided by tight leashes of the society, progression of this world shall forever remain compromised and injustice shall forever prevail.
About The Author
Amaneet Kaur Gandhi