The Express Tribune -
July 16, 2016
by Minerwa Tahir
Qandeel Baloch is dead. Seems like the woman had earned the ire of way too many men. In Pakistan, the ire of one man is enough to claim your life or at least ruin your face forever with a splash of some acid. First, it was Maulana Abdul Qavi, followed by her husband’s revelations. Finally, her brother came for her life.
One woman against three mighty vicegerents of God?
Boy, she needed to be put back in her skin and reminded of her auqaat (place) as a woman.
Let’s fragment her experiences with the mentioned three men.
The then Ruet-e-Hilal Committee member got embroiled into controversy after Qandeel uploaded a video and some selfies with him of their meeting in a private hotel room. With her revelations of Qavi’s flirtations and inexcusable conduct considering that he is a religious cleric, Qandeel claimed to have exposed the true face of this mullah.
When the controversy around mufti Qavi surfaced, even I was a bit wary about Qandeel’s version. But his recent statement,
“People can learn a lesson from the fate of this woman who had accused me falsely,”
Makes me wonder if all along Qandeel had been telling us the truth.
His statement came during his ‘condemnation’ of the killing. It amazes me how shamelessly he is indirectly justifying the killing by referring to it as some form of punishment for Qandeel’s alleged misdemeanour with him. He seems to be telling us that she has been served well. Makes one wonder if he has some role in ensuring that she is ‘served well.’
While the husband claimed that it was a love marriage and he still had letters written by Qandeel with her blood to him, the social media starlet offered a different version. She claimed that it was an arranged marriage and she had been a victim of domestic abuse during the one year long relationship. As if accusations of abuse were not enough, Qandeel went on to announce that she will now fight for the custody of her son.
According to news reports, police have confirmed that Qandeel was killed for ‘honour.’ Family sources claimed that Qandeel’s brothers had asked her to quit modelling and the one who killed her had been threatening her about uploading pictures and videos on social media.
Qandeel was famous for her suggestive videos that she uploaded on social media. While I respect her right to use her body as she pleases, I have had my reservations as a feminist over what I see as her own objectification of herself. In my opinion, women have better talents that merely looks. If you say that this is ‘what she wants,’ I still feel that she has been conditioned by our patriarchal society to want this.
It is just like we are made to believe that we, as labourers, are compensated for the amount of our labour, while in reality the capitalist enjoys the surplus that we create. The systems in place are basically exploitative and we are conditioned to serve these systems believing that we are doing good to our own selves. However, no opinion or morality brigade is superior to a human’s life.
Just this morning, my sister told me how a male friend of hers told her that it’s good that Qandeel has been killed. When asked to elaborate, he claimed that with her death ‘so many young men have been saved from sin’ as there will be no ‘sinful’ videos any more.
It amazes me how helpless our ‘young men’ are when it comes to saving themselves from ‘sin.’ To ensure their safety, their only solution is always the elimination of this sin – mind you, sin is just synonymous with woman – and never exercise of self-control.
In reality, it is Qandeel’s honesty and defiance of patriarchal norms that actually points out how dishonourable our society really is. She was alone, powerful, influential. And she told all the haters out there that she refused to be suppressed under their patriarchal standards of morality. As Andaleeb Rizvi aptly puts it in her Facebook status,
“Qandeel Baloch’s honour killing is a reminder that we are not an honourable people, and probably won’t be for another 100 years. She brought the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the mullah out for the public to view. She told of forced marriage and domestic violence she faced at the hands of her own family and husband. She told the society that she was the only owner of her body and self, and will not be dictated by men. She revealed how unhonourable this patriarchal society is, and so she was ‘put down’ by a man.”
Pakistan likes to believe that it is a champion of ghairat (honour). After all, hum maaen, hum behnain, hum betiyaan, qaumon ki izzat hum se hai (We mothers, sisters and daughters, the honour of nations lies in us).
To someone who is not aware of how things work in this country, I bring to you a small definition of what honour really means to this country.
To be crude, it basically revolves around what happens between the legs of women. To be precise, this honour is the tool employed by our patriarchal society to ensure that no woman enjoys the freedom she wants.
Leaving Qandeel Baloch aside, pick up any instance of honour killing. It is no rocket science; all we see is a constant struggle on the part of the champions of the ghairat brigade to enforce the regualtions of morality – lest you forget, these rules are only for women, to make them subservient to the authority of men. Be it the case of Sumaira, the 17-year-old girl who was killed by her ghairatmand brother in Orangi Town, Karachi, this April, for speaking to a stranger man, or that of 16-year-old Zeenat Bibi who was torched to death by her family for marrying out of choice. These women are a few of the women who were reminded of the fate of exercising freewill. With them, women in general are reminded of the lesser status that society actually gives to them.
“In case you are under the misperception that you can equal man, I will remind you of your status,”
Says society to each of us women.
While many of us will feel that not all women are deprived of freedoms, let me remind you of a harsh reality. Our freedom as women is restricted to what is allowed by the men who ‘own’ us – our fathers, brothers, husbands, etc.
If I am an independent woman today who can work with freedom, it is only because my father is a progressive man whose values allowed me to attain independence. As much as it breaks my heart to say this, even our freedoms and the amount of them thereof depend on our men. Qandeel Baloch is dead because the freedom that she had been exercising all along had not been validated by her family’s men. The same will be the fate of any of us who dares to defy the parameters of freedom defined by the men of our families.
Let’s sink back into our collective depressions.