There is No Honour in Killing
ROME, Jul 22 2016 (IPS) – “Honour” is a paradoxical word. Initially, it draws to mind characteristics of integrity and dignity combined with an all-knowing air of greatness.
However, tradition has conditioned many men into the association of being “honourable” with an assertion of superiority over their female counterparts.
“Honour” also seems to entail the adoption of a “strong” masculine image one must project onto the public sphere, and a means of justifying acts of repressive control.
Historically speaking, the world over, women have been indoctrinated into the belief that their sexuality is somehow dangerous, a shameful secret that must be kept hidden for fear of “indecent exposure”.
Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media star, who came from a society with a deep-rooted fear of female sexuality, attempted to break free from the status quo.
However, did Qandeel’s rebellious actions in the face of male-perpetrated oppression trigger any radical social change? In other words, did her suggestive Facebook photos do no more than make her another product of the “meat market”? Or did her “honour-death” raise the global awareness so desperately needed by women from her region?
Ultimately, did Qandeel’s definition of “sexual liberation” only result in the dishonouring of her family, and her eventual murder?
In the aftermath of Qandeel Baloch’s death by suffocation, the cold-blooded murderer was revealed as no less than her own flesh and blood brother. Upon his arrest, he stated that “he had no regrets” as his sister’s behaviour was “intolerable”.
Somewhere along the line, his societal upbringing ingrained within him the ideology that he not only had the power to control and suppress women but also condemn and punish them for their “indecent” actions too.
While Qandeel took her final breath of life, her brother’s outburst of violent frenzy was somehow self-justified. Deep down, his subconscious drove him to take a woman’s life in the name of dignity and “honour”.
He is one of many young men across the world, especially in South-Asia, who view murder as a reasonable resolution to “de-shaming” the family name from the stain of “dishonour”.
What’s more puzzling in the Qandeel Baloch case is the contradiction surrounding her parents outrage towards her murderous brother’s actions.
Qandeel’s father, Muhammad Azeem, recently expressed his disgust by stating that his son should be “shot on sight”.
Ironically, Qandeel’s father considers the further perpetration of violence as the only solution to his daughter’s murder.
In this sense, has Qandeel’s murder only deepened the vicious circle of vengeance surrounding honour-based violence? Or, will her parents public shaming of their son’s brutality act as a catalyst for change in Pakistan?
Pakistani journalist and activist, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy emphasized the fact that honour killings are an ongoing epidemic. “It appears it is very easy to kill a woman in this country and you can walk off scot-free”.
Legitimized by the perpetrators as a fundamental duty to follow a timeless “code of honour”, familial killings are commonplace in many, particularly rural, regions of Pakistan.
Whilst Qandeel Baloch’s murder exploded across global media outlets and her killer was relentlessly castigated, for another Pakistani woman like Samia, with no fame or fan base behind her, the path to justice was a predestined failure.
Samia ran away from her abusive husband and filed for divorce. When her family met with a lawyer to finalize the documents, a stranger was lurking nearby.
This man later revealed to be a hit man hired by her husband, pulled out a gun and shot a bullet into Samia’s head before she could fully legalize the separation and regain her freedom.
The police refused to prosecute the murderer as they justified the horrific incident as an “honourable” killing.
Both Qandeel and Samia’s narratives represent the thousands of women who have been ruthlessly murdered in the name of an “honour” that appears to be nothing more than a form of bloodthirsty misogyny.
We now must pose the question as to whether the international media pickup of Qandeel’s honour killing will shine a light on the atrocities happening on a daily basis to conventional women like Samia who, most likely, have limited access to social media networks and fear voicing their concerns will only lead to grave consequences.
In the aftermath of Qandeel’s merciless killing, will society place more of an importance on the need to condemn the perpetrators of honour-based violence? Only time will tell.
As of yet, the international organization Honour-Based Violence Awareness network estimates roughly 1,000 women a year are killed in honour killings in Pakistan.
The practice of “honour killing” is no contemporary trend, it dates back to earlier times when Arab settlers occupied a region a known as Baluchistan in Pakistan.
The Arab settlers had patriarchal traditions such as live burials of newly born daughters which is still practiced even today in many parts of the world.
The settlers also enforced the belief that a woman should have no say when it came to the matter of her virginity.
In their view, her sexuality belonged to the family. Undoubtedly, The importance placed on virginity and purity during this time still dominates the ideology of many countries in South Asia.
The very definition of masculinity, particularly in rural villages of the region, also contributes to violence against women. In certain communities, violence is closely linked to honour and the assertion of masculine status.
The resistance to give into western ideals of gender equality also contributes to the persistence of patriarchy in the South Asia region. Many are reluctant to abandon traditional customary practices such as honour killings.
Unfortunately, the future appears grim for the thousands of women subjected to honour-based acts of violence.
South Asian women’s lack of empowerment and economic independence will be of no help in their strive for the eradication of gender-based atrocities.
As long as women remain financially dependent in a male-dominated economy, they will continue to suffer from the violence and misogyny that traditional societies justify as a “code of honour”.
In light of ongoing honour-based violence and murder, Qandeel Baloch’s refusal to conform to repressive societal norms should inspire suppressed women across the world to practice their right to the freedom of speech.
It’s time to redefine the definition of “honour” and rise in the face of violence. Now, we must put the practice of patriarchal “codes of honour” to a halt, and demand the universal right to justice and equality.