By Antara Bhatia:
The choking feeling has become familiar. I have an app on my phone that gives news in bits, and now I keep wondering whether to just delete it. Because really, the choking feeling is not the first thing one wants to experience every morning while going through news and your daily cuppa chai. Why is it that when I catch sight of the word ‘woman’ in any news item, I am filled with a sense of foreboding? Because I believe it will be yet another example of violence, misogyny or even reports of some random sexist remarks that fill me not with rage, but a deep sense of sadness.
The name Qandeel Baloch stood out when I was rapidly sifting through the odds and ends that make up a regular Friday on the news. What stood out even more in later days were some of her brother’s frightening statements. “Girls are born only to stay at home and to bring honour to the family by following family traditions but Quandeel had never done that,” Waseem stated in a press conference. He added that he was ‘proud of what he had done’. It is small wonder that I find it difficult to swallow my tea because somewhere, modern day society is choking me, and all women everywhere.
When did women become the forced representatives of their family’s honour anyway? What I found the most disturbing about the Qandeel case was not the actual killing but the brother’s pride. How deep-rooted, how much a part of his very being is this ideology? His sister’s death, public humiliation, media outrage, the threat of prison and execution – all of this pales as nothing in front of his belief that a liberal, sexually open woman not only needs to be silenced but wiped out.
In two other recent cases, albeit at a verbal level, the ‘honour’ of certain women has been questioned. The first one is Sania Mirza, whose interview with Rajdeep Sardesai went viral a few days ago. This tennis champion was asked when she planned to ‘settle down’. Sardesai associates her honour and respect with motherhood and a stable life, of course! In the other case, actress Jennifer Aniston lashed out at the media after being repeatedly asked if she was pregnant or planning to be. In an essay written for The Huffington Post on July 11, 2016, she remarked, “We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child.”
Three different ways in which the so-called ‘honour’ of women is defined, one with physical violence, two with what may as well be verbal violence. Why cannot honour be reinterpreted in our world? Is it not high time? I want to see a day when a woman’s honour is directly associated with just how independent she is, how far she is able to take financial responsibility for herself or loved ones, how passionately she follows her dreams or how brilliantly her career is going. I want to see a society that does not comment on how we dress or act, but rather, on how well we make our choices and stick to them. Quandeel Baloch was destroyed by our world. The least we can do for her is try and change it.
Featured image shared on Facebook by Qandeel Baloch Official.