A Pakistani celebrity, Qandeel Baloch, was violently strangled to death by her brother last week, in what he referred to as an “honor killing.” Baloch, who is from a working-class background, harnessed the fame she gained after auditioning for the singing show Pakistan Idol, and became the main breadwinner for her family of twelve siblings.
Baloch referred to herself as a modern day feminist, and had nearly 750,000 followers on Facebook and 46,000 on Twitter. She used her social media fame to speak out against society and politician’s discrimination against women. Her critiques included open criticisms of senior members of the clergy.
Defending his role in her killing, Baloch’s brother stated, “Girls are born to stay home and follow traditions. My sister never did that.”
According to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, approximately three people per day were victims of honor killings in Pakistan in 2015, totaling in 1,096 women and 88 men. The actual figure is presumed to be much higher, as many honor killings go unreported or are not properly investigated by local authorities. A law in Pakistan allows the family of a murder victim to forgive the killer, which in honor killings is often times a fellow family member.
This is not the only form of violence against women that is protected by the Pakistani government. After legislators proposed a law banning husbands from beating their wives this spring, The Council of Islamic Ideology submitted an alternative that would have allowed for “light beatings.” Neither of these proposals were enacted, leaving women vulnerable to spousal abuse.
More than 70 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are under the age of 30, and many of this tech-savvy generation are actively challenging the hardline traditions of religious elders. Baloch was a voice of her generation, proclaiming, “As a woman, we must stand up for ourselves. As a woman, we must stand up for each other.”