After three years Qandeel’s soul can finally rest in peace. A court in Multan gave the verdict in the murder of the social media celebrity, a case that ignited debate over the prevalence of ‘honour killings’ in our deeply patriarchal society.
Her brother Waseem, who had initially confessed to her killing and shown no remorse, was sentenced to life imprisonment while six other including local cleric Mufti Qavi were acquitted. Qavi was embroiled in the controversy after pictures of him with the model surfaced on social media tarnishing his reputation. He faced charges of threatening and conspiring to kill her.
The sentencing brings bittersweet feelings for many in Pakistan that justice was delivered after over three years. Many are unconvinced as it would take more than a verdict to end prejudices against women. The case is still not over and will now drag in the high court.
Her death triggered a strong reaction and everyone had an opinion about the burden women have to take on of reputation, the family’s honour and the risks on digital platforms. Later, she was brought to the mainstream media where she faced even greater risks as her real identity was revealed.
Every year hundreds of women are subject to ‘honour killings’ in Pakistan. Most cases don’t attract much attention as they happen in small villages where the issue is brushed aside and those responsible for the killings have never been brought to justice.
Qandeel’s case became famous for her provocative and often risqué social media posts garnering a huge following. To many she was a symbol of female empowerment. Others abhorred her for breaking social norms making her the subject of criticism and threats.
The case made international headlines renewing calls for action against such killings and violence against women. Eventually legislation was passed mandating life imprisonment for such killings. But women rights experts have decried the enforcement of justice is lax and cases get faded away.
The loopholes in the legal system allow perpetrators to escape any punishment. The victim’s family is allowed to pardon the suspects and they are free from prosecution. In Qandeel’s case, the court had rejected a request by her parents to forgive the killers.
Addressing these issues in Pakistan is challenging and change must start at home. Too often, the home is where domestic violence is normalised leading people to believe it is acceptable to protect social standing. Honour crimes fester at home and chauvinistic attitudes confine them to these boundaries.
The education system is another key battleground where young minds can be empowered to shatter gender stereotypes and realise that violence is unacceptable. Public figures must openly speak out, not just to condemn honour killings, but to acknowledge that there is wider problem. Our society must be forced to confront the reality that there is no honour in killing women.