A forum-style dialogue organized in response to the 'honour killing' of celebrity and activist Qandeel Baloch. The forum sought to increase public awareness of the rise in honour killings and to prompt direct or state action to stop femicide motivated by outdated moral codes.
Problem and Purpose
Honour killings - femincide of those who act in a way that damages the honour of family members - have become an acute social and moral problem. Popular social media celebrity and activist Qandeel Baloch was murdered on July 15, 2017 prompting the local chapter of Women’s Action Forum in Sindh and the Women’s Democratic Front to convene a forum-style meeting to discuss the rise of honour-killings of women and girls in Pakistan. The meeting took place in Khanabadosh Writers’ Café on July 29th 2016. The meeting’s location is a new café founded by Amar Sindhu, a women’s rights activist and writer from Sindh University.
Background History and Context
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, honour killings are becoming an acute social and moral problem. In 2015, 1,096 women and 88 men were murdered, higher than 860 women in 2013, with many cases unreported. Honour killings are when a family, or local community murders an individual, usually women, for acting in a way that challenges the honour of the family. In Pakistan, patriarchal readings of religion and tradition tye the izat (respect) of the women and her behaviour and choices to the honour of the family. Zina (sex before marriage), public displays of "immodesty" or nudity and love marriages are often cited as reasons to kill by murderers.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The forum was organized by the local chapter of Women’s Action Forum in Sindh and hosted by the Women’s Democratic Front, a branch organization of the Awami Worker’s Party.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The meeting was open to participation by women in Sindh only. Those invited to the discussion include activists, Sindhi community members, teachers, political party members, and social workers. Participants chose to attend the meeting because of their own positionalities as women in Pakistan whose lives are threatened by such patriarchal customs. The participants were mothers, daughters, sisters and wives wanting to raise their sons and daughters differently, to engage the men in their life on the difficult conversation of masculinity and to develop self-care techniques for each other from rigid body discipline, sexual assault and gender violence in the nation.
Methods and Tools Used
The event was a face to face roundtable discussion between members of the different organizations. The forum appears to have been non-hierarchical, encouraging and ensursuring the equal participation of women of all ages.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
There is very little information available on the actual content of the discussions, as most of its details are in pictures on Facebook; however, it can be descerned that the agenda conatined mainly issues of women's rights and femicide in Pakistan, the problems with the legal system in handling such cases, and deconstructing the statement, “there is no honour in honour killing.” The forum appears to have been a non-hierarchical meeting between women of all ages, deconstructing the parameters through which honour killings are understood. The women agreed that a lot of the emotional, intellectual and physical labour of and teaching their children women’s rights to pleasure, voice and consent, as well as unpacking the central role of honour in masculinities in Pakistan.
Outcomes, Influence, and Effects
The main purpose of the forum was to raise awareness and facilitate meaningful dialogue between women on the perceptual and material threats to their livelihood, personhood and happiness in Pakistan. The main outcome of the meeting was not simply that women left more aware of the issues. Rather, the individuals who participated in this meeting took the knowledge back to their own communities, homes, and classrooms. The host organization, the Women’s Democratic Front-Sindh, also hosts weekly study circles on feminism, socialism and the revolution, which have high attendance rates by local women and community members to continue the conversation. Many of women who participated in this day-long forum committed to attending the weekly dialogues.
The forum was primarily dedicated to consciousness raising to deconstruct the problem of honour killings and pull it from its root through the strength of the feminine, through education and through tradition. More symbolically, what is important is that this event calls into the present the historic legacy of Women's Action Forum in the women rights movement; an organization which began as a contestation against the Hudood Ordinances against pre-marrital sex between two consenting adults to a love marriage.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The Women’s Democratic Front initiatives and Women's Action Forum activities of forums, study circles, meetings and demonstrations are all organic examples of activism, community development and feminist movements in Pakistan which are not funded by foreign organizations or government agencies. The coalition of these two organizations predicts the next chapter of the feminist women's rights movement in Pakistan against honour kilings, rape culture and body discipline.