Qandeel Baloch was a name that popped up while I was surfing the internet a few days back. I didn’t even have the slightest of ideas about who she was or what she did. When I clicked on the link, I could see a 500-word long news story saying that the girl had been murdered by her brother in the name of ‘honour’.
I opened a new window on the browser and quickly typed her name. I went through some of her material posted on the internet and was quite surprised to see some of her ‘supposedly controversial pictures’. I could notice a flood of comments below one of her pictures. A lot of people had expressed their sorrow over the girl’s death.
The alleged murderer, Waseem Azeem, Qandeel’s brother proudly said that he killed his sister because whatever she was doing was unacceptable and was tarnishing the reputation of his family.So, he had no other choice but to mercilessly kill his sister. Obviously, the easiest way to protect the family’s honour is to strangle an innocent girl to death, just as hundreds and thousands of them are murdered every year.
In orthodox societies across the globe, many women are killed by their male family members because they marry against the wish of their family. Perhaps the most horrific aspect of this demonic desire to impose obedience over women is that it is widely accepted by people and even defended.
It’s not just about Qandeel Baloch, but about the countless women who are living in a state of perpetual misery and suppression. A Bollywood film NH 10 starring Anushka Sharma threw light on the ever so serious issue of honour killings in India. Brother of a girl kills her and her lover, with whom she had eloped.
The Pakistani legal fraternity is divided on the issue because even if the self-confessed murderer is convicted for his crime, it would be in the rarest of the rare cases because,in such cases, men are usually set free. Family honour provides men with a strong motive to kill.
To be very honest, this is nothing but a horrible and the most obnoxious way of imposing primitive societal norms. When men rape, kill and steal, doesn’t it tarnish the family’s honour? Are women the sole custodians of this precious commodity?
It won’t be wrong to say that the entire concept of “family honour’ is nothing but a barbaric societal construct designed and developed in order to control women who dare to defy these useless social taboos. Furthermore, virginity is highly prized in primitive societies, and if there’s any doubt about the matter, marriage becomes impossible.
Property rights are yet another aspect of family honour. If a girl marries a man the family hasn’t selected, he can later claim a share of his wife’s inheritance. So, a father and brother lose face in the society if they can’t force their daughters and sisters to obey the societal norms.
We have the Indian cinema, where films such as Ishaqzaade have brilliantly depicted the taboos that are ailing our so-called ‘modernized society’. hundreds and thousands are killed for marrying beyond their caste. The killers are seldom punished. In cases involving the family’s honour, the accused often ends up getting the sympathy of the judges and the rights of the victim are sidelined. As long as these primitive societal norms prevail, this vicious circle of misery is bound to continue.It is really a shame that in the name of ‘honour’ we suppress, rape and even kill women.
But in death, Qandeel Baloch seems to have attained immortality. She has become a symbol of defiance against barbaric social taboos, while the name of her critics would soon be forgotten.