Political Femme Fatale Qandeel Baloch: Dishonorably Murdered

Baloch’s murder shines a light on Pakistan’s disturbing and socially endorsed misogyny.

26-year-old Qandeel Baloch was not a woman for whom stardom was inevitable. Most of Pakistan’s politically relevant come from wealthy families and privileged backgrounds. Baloch did not. She was one of twelve children in a small town in a conservation and feudal Punjab district.

Her name at birth was Fouzia Azeem. Like many girls in her culture she was married off in her late teens. She did not receive the education and social exposure her activism-bound peers did. She first worked as a “bus hostess.” Rather than endure a life of serial pregnancies and social oppression, Baloch stepped out of her societal role after one child and one year of marriage. Baloch left her marriage after the situation became abusive.

She quickly shed her old skin and embraced her new, more risqué, identity. Her raw sex appeal and self-exposure led many to compare her to Kim Kardashian. Unlike Kardashian, Baloch built her image all by herself on a slim budget. She produced alluring videos, in spite of their poor quality, from the comfort of her bedroom.

Only months ago, a plethora of religious groups rallied against the Punjab government’s bill for the protection of women. They argued that protective legal rights for women were equivalent to promoting societal obscenity. In a society that thrives on modest and meek women, such a bill would be destructive.

Pakistani women are thoroughly undermined in society. Men are permitted to ‘lightly beat’ their wives. Women can only address their blood relations, and thus could not answer the phone. Research reveals that six women were abducted, four murdered, four raped, and three victims of suicide every single day.

Baloch’s murder at the hands of her brother is culturally referred to as an honor killing. An honor killing is considered appropriate if the victim has engaged in ‘transgressive’ behavior, which is anything the man determines to be shameful. As such, the father will typically forgive the criminal – an action allowable by law in Pakistan.

Baloch was allowed to appear on daytime talk shows. It wasn’t until she began using her public position to discuss women’s rights, that she became an endangered species. She was viewed as a threat to the traditional societal tenants, and what were once benign, hate messages became virulent death threats. She was viewed as a shameless slut with no regard for the reputation of her nation.

When she asked the government for protection, her death threats were dismissed. With no protection and no community support, it was easy for her brother to drug and then strangle her in their father’s home. He expressed no dishonor, believing his sister to be guilty of dishonoring their family. In his eyes, he deserved glory.

Conservative bystanders believe she got what she deserved. Liberal supporters believe she was taken too soon. What seems utterly irrefutable is the danger of being a beautiful and strong woman in a country as deeply misogynistic as Pakistan.

Baloch’s brother believes, “Girls are born to stay home and follow traditions.” This cannot be true. Young women should not be raised to believe they serve only one purpose. Women are not servile instruments, and Baloch should be hailed for her refusal to be treated as such.

Powerful people should not have to be killed before they receive praise. The fact that her brother fled after murdering her ought to serve as proof that he doubted his decision, if only for a moment. In her last Facebook post, Baloch left a haunting message: “I am trying to change the typical orthodox mindset of people who don’t wanna come out of their shells of false beliefs and old practices.”

Funeral march

Friends and family carried Baloch’s body with mixed emotions. (source)

Qandeel Baloch was an icon in the making. She was a voice screaming against the waves of unjust Pakistani misogyny. She did not deserve to die.

Photo source.

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