Honour has different meanings for different genders

Updated April 27, 2016


Students watch the documentary at Islamia College University, Peshawar, on Tuesday. — White Star
Students watch the documentary at Islamia College University, Peshawar, on Tuesday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: When the team of internationally recognised and twice Oscar Award winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy screened the award winning documentary “The Girl in the River” at Rose Capell Hall of Islamia College University, the boys and girls, all students of BS (English literature), were not only sitting on left and right but their views were also poles apart on the issue of ‘honour killing’.

As the screening of the documentary started, the boys sitting separately reacted totally different. The issue of honour killing -- a custom which has been criminalised by amendment in law yet it prevails in the ‘honour’ centric society -- was highlighted with a case from Gujrat (Punjab) where a girl was shot at by her uncle and father and thrown into a river for marrying a boy of her choice despite opposition by her family.

Related: Hopes and ‘honour’ killings

The documentary highlights as to how girls are forced to accept the will of their fathers and uncles and if they disobey or break the customs they are killed by the very own dear relations. The documentary touches every aspect and behaviour of society and the legal system, which has been unable to curb these honour-related murders of women.

However, it seemed less shocking than the reaction of boy students, who cheered at the statement of the father, who murdered his own daughter for ‘honour’.

Documentary on honour killing screened at Islamia College University

“I don’t think these boys got the message of the documentary. They did not understand the issue at all,” said Nazeerullah, a student hailing from Bannu district. He said that the documentary depicted well the social issue of honour killing.

Saud Ihsan, hailing from tribal area, said that the boys just clapped at the word ‘Ghairat’ (honour) to show their dominance over the girls, who were sitting alongside.

He said that “Ghairat” or honour was something, which boys and girls both had.

“The girls should not be given any choice as the parents, who take care of their daughters know well what is good or bad for them,” said Junaid Alam, a student of BS (English) at Islamia College Peshawar University.

Farhan Ali, however, said that Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy had taken just one case but there were so many brutal killings that happened in that province. “It shows just backwardness of our society,” he added.

Related: The price of real change

Liaqat Al Hamraz, another student from Bajaur Agency, said that only education would bring any change as girls and even boys in their society had no freedom to decide for their own lives.

The girl students, who were sitting all covered in navy-blue gowns and scarves, responded to the boys’ clapping with clapping at the girl victim when she talked of forgiving her father and uncle, who had attempted to kill her and were jailed.

“Since childhood, boys are brainwashed with terms like honour or Ghairat so unless such documentaries show the negative aspect of our society, positive change cannot be expected,” said Neelam Afridi.

While the subtle tussle of ideas was going on between the girl and boy students of Islamia College University, Dr Nowshad Khan, the dean of faculty of arts, also pointed out how boys took the issue light and yet displayed how deep-rooted such social issues tagged as customs were still present in the society.

He said that documentaries like “The Girl in the River” would help in creating awareness among the society to take those issues seriously and do something to do away with such traditions. He said that mental and economic poverty was one reason that such stone-aged ideas still existed in society. Only education would help to fight that mindset, he added.

Also Read: Reinterpreting ‘honour killings’

“There is no honour in killing a woman. Protecting a woman should be honour for a man,” said Hareem Zafar. She said that everyone talked of Ghairat but no one follows the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), who showed respect to his daughter. Men should follow his example, she added.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2016