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The Qandeel Baloch ‘honour killing’ had shocked the subcontinent – her parents recently appealed to the court to spare their sons accused of murdering her under the earlier ‘pardon’ law.
Much to the relief of human rights and women rights bodies across Asia, a Pakistani court today dismissed a plea by the parents of Qandeel Baloch for the acquittal of her brothers who are the main accused in her sensationalised murder case, in which the parents were the original complainants incidentally.
Waseem and Aslam Shaheen, both her brothers, are suspects among others in the case. On Wednesday their parents submitted an affidavit to the court stating that they have pardoned their sons, and since the new law barring such pardons by family was passed after Qandeel’s murder, it mustn’t be applicable to this case.
As of now further hearing has been adjourned till August 24.
Besides being hailed the Kim Kardashian of Pakistan Qandeel Baloch ironically also became the face of “(dis) honour killings of women” in South Asia.
In July 2016, Qandeel’s brothers allegedly strangulated her to death in their family home, as a punishment for her “shameful online behaviour” according to them.
The plea by the parents does not come as a surprise to many of us in this part of the world. We grow up watching families, communities and society protect men always, and deem them more valuable than the women.
While misogyny is not uncommon across the world, here it remains wrapped as benevolent sexism and often in the guise of “saving and protecting” women they are discriminated against and often subjected to emotional and physical violence.
In the documentary India’s daughter made by Leslie Udwin about the famous Jyoti Singh/Nirbhaya Rape what the defense lawyer of the accused says is true of what most men and families here seem to believe:
“A woman is like a flower….a flower needs protection—if you put that flower in the gutter, it is spoilt. If you put it in the temple, it is worshipped.”
Qandeel became thus became the symbolic flower crushed in its own bed. Now the plea by the parents to save ‘their sons’ who are also allegedly the murderers of their daughter only reinforces the shockingly limited social options of justice for women here.
The dictum is – be protected or be brutalised!
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, the filmmaker who made history as the only Pakistani to win two Oscars for her documentary titled A Girl in the River – The Price of Forgiveness (do click to watch it) about honour killings in Pakistan said in an interview:
“It’s a very private affair. It happens when a father kills a daughter, when a brother kills a sister and it’s left in the family….Often times you don’t find out the names of the women, you don’t find the bodies, you don’t even know that a woman has been killed.”
Qandeel Baloch’s story, also captured in a book too titled The Sensational Life And Death Of Qandeel Baloch remains a saga of a girl from a conservative family, who shot to fame via TV talents shows and social media in the largely orthodox Pakistani society, and hopping from one controversy to another had a huge limelight constantly focussed on her.
Her murder, and the public outrage after it led to the Anti-Honour Killings Laws Bill being fast-tracked in the Pakistan parliament in October 2016. It plugged the legal loophole that allowed families of victims to pardon the accused of ‘honour killings’. This Anti-Honour Killing law mandates granting life imprisonment for honour killings, though whether a crime can be defined as a crime of honour or not is left entirely to the judge’s discretion.
Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission admitted in a report in 2015 that approximately 1,100 women were killed in the previous year there by family members who strongly believed that these women had dishonoured their families in some way or the other.
What the final verdict in this case will be remains to be seen, but the appalling misogyny and sexism so deep-rooted in mindsets is still the largest hurdle women battle every day, and at close quarters.
Image source: YouTube
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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.
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