“As a women (sic) we must stand up for ourselves. As a women we must stand up for each other … As a women we must stand up for justice. I believe that I am a modern day feminist. I believe in equality. I need not to choose what type of women should be. I don’t think there is any need to label ourselves just for sake of society. I am just a women with free thought free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM. J” Qandeel Baloch wrote just three days before her murder.
In the early hours of Saturday, social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch (born Fouzia Azeem) was given a tablet and then strangled to death by her younger brother Waseem in a so-called ‘honour killing’. Her brother admitted at a press conference in the presence of police that he had murdered his sister because “she [had] brought dishonour to the Baloch name” with her provocative posts on social media.
Feminist groups in Pakistan immediately launched an online petition condemning the murder of Qandeel Baloch and demanding that the government put her killer on trial. Since her murder on Saturday various opinions have been expressed with some including those who support the petition blaming her death on the way in which the media attacked her and revealed information about her private life. The Pakistani Government was also blamed for failing to respond to Baloch’s request for protection.
According to the BBC, 1,096 women were killed in Pakistan by relatives in ‘honour killings’ last year. This represented a 21% increase between 2013 and 2015. In February, Punjab, the country’s largest province, passed the Protection of Women against Violence Bill, a landmark law, criminalising all forms of violence against women. This was met with an uproar by religious groups and all mainstream Islamic parties who want the law repealed. They fear that the law will encourage women to divorce thereby destroying the country’s traditional family system. In reality, what is feared is the loss of control of women and the dismantling of a patriarchal society.
In a recent and rare development the state has become the complainant in Qandeel’s murder making it impossible for her family to pardon her killers by using blood money laws. Blood law is a traditional law which involves the payment of blood money. It is usually the avenue taken by families but leads to the dropping of murder charges. What is needed is reform of such laws so that those who commit such acts are tried in court.
‘Honour killings’ are not just a problem in Eastern culture but in Western too as Pakistani feminist groups pointed out in their petition citing the following cases: 31-year-old Maria Nemeth disembowelled by her boyfriend Fidel Lopez in Florida, United States; 27-year-old Farkhunda beaten to death by a mob in Kabul, Afghanistan; 37-year-old Miriam Nyazema stabbed 26 times by her British soldier Josphat Mutekedza; the multiple victims of Elliot Rodger a violent, anti-woman killer with a manifesto in California, United States.
In the UK, 11,000 UK cases of so-called ‘honour crime’ have been recorded in five years from 2010 to 2014. Since it was established in 1989 JAN Trust has worked tirelessly to tackle honour-based violence (HBV) in its various forms for example, murder, assault, forced abortion, disfigurement, enforced suicide, kidnapping and false imprisonment or any other crime motivated by honour in order to uphold perceived cultural and/or religious beliefs.
Not only do we work with communities and religious groups and seek to influence government policy but we also provide training on HBV for agencies across London and the UK. Our training is culturally sensitive and explores religious stipulations. If you are interested in attending or arranging a training session please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org