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Honour vs Henna

History is witness that the onus of family morality falls on the woman; but the chance to define honour and honour-killings, continue to elude her

9/1/2016 4:49:09 PM
written By : Reema Abbasi Print

Can lives really be extinguished at the altar of choice? The recent ‘honour killing’ of Pakistani web sensation, Qandeel Baloch, has not only sparked public furor, stirred an unprecedented debate on the practice, but also slapped labels on Pakistan such as ‘No Country For Bold Women’. 

Shocking statistics say that perhaps the Oscar should belong to the nation’s blot on modernity. According to the Federal Ministry of Law, 933 cases of honour killings came to light in the past two years with 83 non-Muslim incidents and 602 in Sindh alone. The ministry’s human rights offices registered 456 in 2013 and 477 in 2014. Honour Based Violence Awareness Network cites 1000 honour killings per year in both Pakistan and India.

Perhaps there’s more to these soaring figures than corpses. Aside from a patriarchal consensus on a woman’s body taking centre stage in a theatre of blood, it is possible that all does not boil down to heightened awareness or reportage. Numbers can point towards an all out war against primitive social sanctions -- the modern woman, caught between tradition and modernity, repression and liberty, is willing to risk her neck to find her feet. More women, it seems, are opting for individualistic ways, creating intergenerational unease. Decisions ranging from marrying for love, chasing a career, leaving an oppressive marriage, eloping, or even opting for nuclear family structures, are reasons enough to taint family and community honour.As for the perpetrators, be it father, brother, husband, son or male relative, let’s not underestimate a bruised ego. Jirgas and panchayats comprise men and stand by men who kill to preserve (their fragile) honour. 

Many activists say that such murders are conducted under the proud patronage of village elders. But the cause is not just a ‘wayward woman’. Men often kill wives, sisters and daughters who, as breadwinners, begin to ration cash flow; they also kill for dowry, conjugal discontentment, to cut costs if a second marriage is on the horizon, if a family woman falls prey to rape, or simply to maintain old (patriarchal) social orders.  

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