The time has finally come. Pakistan announced that after centuries of senseless deaths, they have decided to put an end to the loopholes in the 2004 Honor Killings Act. Legislation brought this act forward in hopes that it would reform society and make honor killings punishable by law.
However, the act was essentially ignored because many religious groups did not support the change as they believed it was a family’s right and part of Islamic law to give families a chance to regain honor. The current law also allowed aggressors to go free if the family forgave them. Consequently, due to the recent and tragic killing of the iconic Qandeel Baloch, Pakistan’s Senate and National Assembly decided to convene.
Baloch, known as Fouzia Azeem to some, was a Pakistani model, actress, activist, feminist and social media celebrity. Baloch gained spotlight after auditioning on Pakistan Idol. She soon became widely known on social media through her pictures, videos and stance on not being afraid to be who she is.
Though loved by many, opposers believed as a Pakistani woman, she should not sexualize herself or interact closely with men. Baloch’s brother, Waseem Azeem, was ashamed by her controversial popularity and on July 15, 2016, he drugged and strangled her to death. He was not remorseful for his actions. He claimed his actions were appropriate in order to bring honor back to his family.
Baloch’s story is one of many. Yet, her calamity can be the one to launch human rights and women’s rights change in Pakistan. According to the U.N.’s Commission on Human Rights, “honor killings” have occurred in Great Britain, Brazil, India, Ecuador, Israel, Italy, Uganda, Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco and more. The countries with the highest numbers are India and Pakistan.
In mid-August, the anti-honor killing bill was brought forward. It will hold murderers fully accountable for their actions. As seen in the Baloch case, her brother has been charged and no exceptions to the Act will be accepted. Although an initial bill was introduced in March 2015, it failed because of a lack of political unanimity, which was obligatory for it to be enacted. Now, with the help of the parliamentary committee, change can take place.
Changing traditions and implementing new laws is not easy. It is, however, necessary to protect women and put an end to the acceptance of murder disguised as an honor. According to the Wall Street Journal, “With the support of the lower house of Parliament and support from major opposition parties, the government is expected to have enough votes to pass the bill.”
The consensus on the anti-honor killings bill was “great news for Pakistan.” It was an upward battle and many are excited about the long-overdue change.
– Needum Lekia