Sunday, July 17, 2016

Dying For Honor

To some that title might evoke images of military heroes who sacrifice themselves for their country.  To others the images are worse:  Families calmly getting together, planning and then carrying out the killing of a family member, frequently a woman, for what is deemed the crime of besmirching the family's honor.

Honor killings have their origins in the area around the Mediterranean, but they are now found much more widely.  Still, certain countries and certain cultures have a much stronger inheritance of this custom.

Pakistan is one of them.  The very recent killing of a young Pakistani woman by her brother is an honor killing, though it's unclear if it is one planned by more than one individual:

Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch has been killed by her brother in an apparent 'honour killing' in the province of Punjab, police say.
Ms Baloch, 26, recently caused controversy by posting controversial pictures of herself on social media, including one alongside a Muslim cleric.
Police say she was strangled to death.
Cases of women being killed for 'dishonouring' their family are commonplace in Pakistan.
Qandeel Baloch became a household name for posting bold, sometimes raunchy, photographs, video and comments.

Ms Baloch's parents told The Express Tribune that she was strangled to death on Friday night following an argument with her brother.
They said her body was not discovered until Saturday morning. Her parents have been taken into custody, the Tribune reported.
Ms Baloch had gone to Punjab from Karachi because of the threat to her security, police say.
"[Her] brothers had asked her to quit modelling," family sources quoted by the Tribune said.
Sources quoted by the newspaper said that Wasim was upset about her uploading controversial pictures online and had threatened her about it.
Police said he had not been arrested and was on the run.
Baloch had been called the Kim Kardashian of Pakistan, but more recently she had also begun writing about the oppressed role of women in her country:

She had nearly 750,000 followers on Facebook, where her videos went viral but were also the subject of much debate and discomfort. In recent weeks, several of her posts encouraged her audience to challenge old practices of Pakistani society. In a July 14 post, Baloch referred to herself as a "modern day feminist."
Hamna Zubair, the culture editor of Pakistani newspaper Dawn, told CNN that she had received much criticism for carrying pieces on Baloch. One commentator asked her if she would be "reporting from a brothel" next.
Baloch tightly controlled her narrative in the media. She shared little about her personal life and was something of an enigma; nobody really knew which city she was based in.
She found fame and slipped into the national consciousness after declaring that she would perform a live strip tease online if Pakistan won a cricket match against arch rival India.
As her media profile grew, Zubair said Baloch became aware "of her power to deliver a certain message about being female in Pakistan," and that she had become a "burgeoning activist for increasing women's visibility" in the country.

Honor killings should be of concern to feminists, over and above the obvious feminist concerns about domestic violence against women.  Honor killings exist in addition to the run-of-the-mill domestic violence, and they differ from that by frequently being planned by most of the family members together and carried out as a formal execution.

The basic concept of "honor" used in this context lodges the family's honor in women's vaginas:  What most frequently gets women "honor-killed" is any sign of independent sexuality, such as marrying or dating a man the family disapproves of.

Thus, in order to guard a family's honor, its female members must be controlled, monitored and their activities limited. Independence in women is seen as a risk, something to be attacked, because it could lead to the tainting of the family's honor.

That concept of family honor is convenient for the male members of a family whose independence is not subject to similar restrictions.  It also directly limits women's chances for self-determination.

The tradition of honor killings in terms of more recent history belongs to certain cultures and not others, but it can also be seen as an extreme manifestation of the fairly common tendency everywhere to regard women as responsible for all the goal-keeping in sexual interactions:  It is the women who are called sluts if they have many partners; men with many partners are called players.

This tradition, in all its forms,  belongs in the waste bin of history.