opinion

'Honour killings' aren't unique. They happen here in Australia, too.

Trigger warning: This article may be triggering for some readers as it deals with graphic violence.

“I was determined either to kill myself or kill her.”

That was the justification given on Sunday by the brother and murderer of Qandeel Baloch, a 26-year-old Pakistani social media star who was asphyxiated in the name of ‘family honour.’

The violent murder of Baloch has put honour killings back into public conversation, with outrage emerging from numerous voices who are demanding we talk about the murder itself, as well as ‘honour killings’ more broadly.

Fierce debate has begun about the use of the term ‘honour’ to describe such crimes, and the cultural context which allows such cruel acts to occur.

Qandeel Baloch was not afraid to be different. Post continues after video…

Video via Qandeel Baloch

Pakistani publication Daily Times wrote that Baloch’s “only crime was that she was born in a society that refuses to allow women to live on their own terms.” The article said that their laws, often in the name of religion (which, they noted, also bring their religion into disrepute), “give sanction to this misogyny and protect it.”

It’s affirming to see introspection coming from the same culture where Baloch’s murder was deemed acceptable by her family members. But, of course, this should come as no surprise. Every culture is diverse and full of contradictions, because people are people and there are good and bad ones, moderate and extremist ones, no matter where you are.

Images via Instagram: @qandeelbalochquebee.
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But when we hear these stories - that a man found it more honourable to kill  his sister than allow her self direction -because he thought a woman's place was in the home and she refused to conform to that, it's only natural to distance ourselves. To tell ourselves that these things happen in another world, in another place where people believe different things and have beliefs about women that we wouldn't even recognise. But that's simply not the case.

The 'honour killing' of Qandeel Baloch isn't unique. Family members killing women isn't special - it's not something that only happens in Pakistan or other distant places that have different beliefs and legal systems.

It happens here, too.

All the time.

As of July this year, domestic violence has killed 36 women in Australia.

According to ABC Fact Check, one in six Australian women has experienced violence at the hands of a partner since the age of 15. But due to low reporting rates and a lack of accurate data about the frequency and severity of violence, these numbers are likely to be much higher.

How can we argue that Qandeel Baloch murder was the product of Pakistani laws or cultural beliefs, when we have similar cases of violence happening in Australia?

Yes, it's important to recognise the motivations behind such horrible acts of violence. But what we also need to acknowledge is that they stem from the same root cause - beliefs that men are entitled to women, their bodies and their lives.

In one of her last Facebook posts, Baloch wrote about her support of women’s rights.

The only difference between an 'honour killing' and the violence that afflicts women in Australia is the word 'honour.' And what does that mean? An 'honour killing' refers to protecting what one 'knows' is morally right, it's a phrase used to describe killing a woman who has brought the family into disrepute.

Underlying all violence against women is deep-seated misogyny.

The more we try and distance ourselves from the case of Qandeel Baloch, telling ourselves that what happened to her happened because "she was born in a society that refuses to allow women to live on their own terms," the further away we get from acknowledging why violence against women occurs so frequently.

Because we too live in a society that refuses to allow women to live on their own terms. We need to be just as horrified by the violence in our midst as we are by the violence in faraway places. Until this happens, we have no hope of tackling violence against women in any meaningful way.
If you need help or assistance with a family violence situation or if this post has raised issues for you, you can talk to someone at 1800 RESPECT, a 24/7 national telephone hotline. 1800 737 732
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