Pakistan Fast-Tracks Anti-Honor Killing Law After Social Media Star's Murder

Courtesy Qandeel Baloch Instagram
Qandeel Baloch

Qandeel Baloch, called the "Kim Kardashian of Pakistan," was murdered by her brother, leading to a public outcry to pass long-pending legislation banning honor killings.

The murder of Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch last week has led authorities to push for long-pending legislation against so-called honor killings where women who defy conservative norms are murdered by family members.

Baloch, who was often described as the "Kim Kardashian of Pakistan," was strangled to death on July 15 by one of her six brothers, Waseem, as she slept in her family home in Multan.

A fashion model and social media phenomenon, Baloch was famous for her risque pictures and selfies which, though tame by western standards, pushed the boundaries in an orthodox Islamic country like Pakistan. She had 740,000-plus followers on Facebook, 41,000 followers on Twitter and 123,000 fans on Instagram.

“I believe I am a modern day feminist. I believe in equality... I don't think there is any need to label ourselves just for [the] sake of society," Baloch wrote in a Facebook post before her death.

Baloch recently sparked a major controversy in Pakistan by posting pictures of herself with Mufti Qavi, a prominent Muslim cleric.

Following his arrest, Waseem was quoted stating said that he “was proud” of what he did because his sister was “bringing dishonor to the family."

In the wake of Baloch's murder, a bill against honor killings is expected to be presented before a parliamentary committee as early as Thursday, according to Reuters. The proposed law would remove a loophole that allows the victim's family members to pardon the killer. This loophole means most perpetrators of honor killings in Pakistan escape punishment.

Once approved by the committee, the bill is expected to be presented before a joint session of parliament in “a couple of weeks,” Reuters quoted Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of Pakistan's Prime Minister and an influential member of the ruling party, as stating.

This year's Oscar-winning documentary short, A Girl In The River, put the spotlight on honor killings in Pakistan.  More than 1,000 women are murdered every year in this manner every year in the country. The film, by Pakistani documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, was based on the real-life story of 19-year old Saba who lived to tell the tale of her attempted honor killing by her family members.

“There is no place for honor killings in Islam,” the Karachi-based filmmaker told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview earlier this year ahead of the Oscars. “It's just that Islam has been manipulated over the years and distorted to such a degree by men to suit them,” she added. “There is a big distinction between the religion and its followers. If the followers distort the religion, we must not hold the religion accountable for that. We must hold the followers of that religion accountable for it.”

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