The government of Pakistan will not allow the killer of the “Kim Kardashian of Pakistan,” Qandeel Baloch, from being pardoned by her family, a decision that could set a significant precedent in the country.
Baloch was strangled on Saturday by her brother in her home in an “honor killing.”
She was an intrepid social media star who clashed with the country’s conservative values by flaunting her sexuality and calling for more freedoms for women.
Globally, more than 5,000 women a year are victims of honor killings. In Pakistan, around three women are murdered in this way each day.
Some experts believe that honor killings are on the rise because the older generation feels betrayed as the emerging generation adapts to a more interconnected world that prizes gender equality.
Generally, honor killings go unpunished in Pakistan. A loophole in the law allows victim's family to exonerate the murderer. Since fathers, mothers, uncles, and brothers are often the perpetrators, this option is exercised all the time, creating an atmosphere of impunity that makes it easier to commit such a reprehensible crime.
It also sends the message that women should always obey the men in their lives and never venture beyond the highly restricted gender roles of society. Otherwise, they could get killed and it will be seen as a social good.
When Baloch’s death was discovered, the reaction in Pakistan was split. Many condemned the murder. But there were many others who applauded the brother.
Initially, it was unclear if the killer would be freed. But the swift international outrage likely motivated the Pakistani government to intervene.
And so on Monday, the government stripped the family of ability to pardon the son.
Baloch’s father had already pressed charges against the son, so it seemed unlikely that a pardon would happen. But now that option is no longer possible.
The killer will instead go to court where he will likely be punished for this utterly dishonorable murder.
Advocates against gender-based violence hope that this decision will act as a precedent to close the loophole that allows so many murderers to remain free.
The Pakistani parliament is currently sitting on a bill that was passed last year by the senate to definitively end honor killing pardons.
Baloch’s murder could be the catalyst that helps the bill pass, lifting a terrible specter from the lives of all women who dare to act independently.
The trauma of most “honor killings” is swallowed up by the self-justifying lies about a family’s honor. But in Baloch’s case, there is no chance for a false narrative to take hold. The world knows that this was a monstrously unjust act — like all “honor killings.” Perhaps this time action will finally be taken to end them once and for all.