Safeguarding the honour of our women

Their only fault is to dream to live a life on their own terms

Nisma Chauhan August 23, 2016

Twenty-eight-year-old Samia Shahid’s murder case has brought many things on the forefront, from Pakistan’s incompetent police force and half-baked investigations, to our dependence on international media to probe prompt results of a murder case. For if it wasn’t for British news outlets highlighting the issue, the case would have been swept under the carpet just like many others written off in files.

Samia’s case may soon seek justice as her former husband, Chaudhry Shakeel accused of murder, confessed to strangling her with the help of the Bradford-born beautician’s own father, Chaudhry Shahid. But many other murder cases just like Samia’s will be left unheard or perhaps, unreported. The victim’s only fault to meet such a brutal fate was remarrying a man from a different sect of Islam, against the will of her family, adding to thousands of cases of ‘honour killings’ that are committed in broad daylight without any fear of repercussions, because for the longest time, Pakistan has turned a blind eye to the atrocities faced by women.

Women after women in the country are being sacrificed to protect the so-called ‘honour’ of their families. In fact, even during the 1947 partition, fathers, brothers or husbands preferred burning women in their house alive, in fear of them being raped. Sixty-nine years later, the atrocities carry on. More than a 1,000 cases of honour killings have been recorded in 2016 alone, although actual numbers are thought to be much higher as many cases go unreported. The rise in such crimes is an epidemic that not only occurs in rural areas but also in urban vicinities. Gone are the times when violence against women was considered to be the problem of the under-educated, less affluent classes. Samia’s father, a Bradford businessman, was, in fact, an accomplice in his own daughter’s murder.

The most terrifying problem is, in the way we approach ‘killings’ of such nature by attaching the word ‘honour’ to it, conjoining the two words and mouthing them together under the same breath. The use of the two words together, repeatedly thrown into any conversation interlinks them, making the oppressor believe the false implication of family’s honour only being attached to a woman, creating stereotypes and misrepresentations and side-lining a much-needed discussion on misogyny. And besides the hue and cry held after every case, be it of Qandeel or Samia, we fail to protect our women. Their only fault is to dream to live a life on their own terms. A right we never fail to take away from them.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2016.


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