Qandeel’s murder

Updated July 17, 2016

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THE shocking ‘honour’ killing of popular social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch, must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

In her brief moment in the spotlight, she breezily pushed the boundaries of what in Pakistan is considered ‘acceptable’ behaviour by women, and her death highlights the perils that such a path entails.

Outspoken and fearless, she chose to live life on her own terms — as a woman whose antics unnerved her many moralistic critics, most of whom were both enthralled and repelled by her.

That in itself was an act of courage. In fact, in a sense it was the very exaggerated nature of her persona — that many saw as controversial and that she flaunted in her risqué videos — which got the message across: women have a right to be themselves even if they offend conventional sensibilities.

And the state’s response must unequivocally demonstrate that they do not deserve to be murdered for it. For this reason too, her murder must be immediately investigated and the perpetrators — allegedly her brothers — apprehended and punished.

It is regrettable though that the state has a weak record when it comes to prosecutions because quite often the murderers of women go scot-free.

They are forgiven and even supported by regressive patriarchies after killing ‘disobedient’ female family members increasing the impunity factor — this is reason enough for removing punishment waivers and compoundability provisions from the law.

And although filmmakers, activists and legislators have lobbied for revised laws, there has been zero headway.

Why the lethargy?

When will parliament be jolted out of its stupor to pass the anti-honour killing bill?

Now that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is back, he must deliver on his pledge to amend the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2004, by removing the clauses that make such murder a private offence instead of a crime against state and society.

Furthermore, when a citizen asks for protection it must be provided by the state. In this case, the interior ministry was gravely at fault to have ignored the young celebrity’s request for security.

The death of Qandeel Baloch conveys an insidious message: that women will be kept back at all cost; murdered, if they dare nurture ambitions to break the glass ceiling.

Her murder, therefore, must serve as an impetus for legislators to renew demands for legislation to protect women who are threatened under false notions of ‘honour’.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2016