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Editorial | Time To Challenge The Patriarchal Notion Of ‘Honour’

For a country where public sentiment is so likely to be offended by the slightest assertion of autonomy from women, it is particularly shocking to see the wide variety of things which do not disturb “public opinion” in the least. Such is the case with the latest horror story to emerge from our much-vaunted and sacrosanct “traditional values”.

As part of the authorities’ investigation, a medical board has found that the body of 9-year-old Gul Sama from the Dadu region in Sindh bore a fractured neck and face. In addition, there were deep injuries on the nose, head and torso. These injuries suffered by the unfortunate infant are consistent with her having been stoned to death.

This was allegedly done on the orders of a local jirga, in yet another case of “Karo kari”. In other words, the jirga reached the conclusion that the “honour” of all parties involved in some dispute could be best upheld by hurling stones at a 9-year-old girl and in doing so, killing her.

Legislation passed in the aftermath of the “honour”-related murder of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch by her brother in 2016 has, quite simply, failed to have its desired effect. The continued incidence of such crimes against Pakistani women suggests that legislation is of limited consequence when dealing with fatally pernicious attitudes that are far more deeply ingrained than we might imagine.

Pakistan needs an open and honest conversation on what its traditionally-minded men consider to be “honour”. But instead, such efforts are repeatedly scuttled by those citing what they claim to be “traditions”, “culture” and “religion”. As long as authorities remain beholden to conservative backlash and medieval thinking, they will be helpless in addressing the horrific violence faced by Pakistani women.

If such a conversation is ever to begin in earnest, it could begin by asking: why is it that even the father of 9-year-old Gul Sama wants authorities to believe that his daughter was crushed to death by heavy stones in a landslide – and not the avalanche of violence that regulates daily life in Pakistan for women?


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Naya Daur