Pakistani social media sensation Qandeel Baloch was killed by her own brother last week. He confessed to the police that he murdered her to save their family’s honour. Her death once again brought to the fore the horrors of honour killing in the 21st century. While some mourned the death of a feminist crusader, others compared her to Nobel recipient Malala Yousufzai. Is the comparison valid? What needs more attention at such a time — the way she led her life or the way it was put to an end?
K.M. Chaitanya, filmmaker: ‘A small act of rebellion’
In a country that is predominantly conservative, Qandeel Baloch dared to differ. She was of course raised in a very orthodox family and had her own share of struggles. She never put up any obscene pictures of herself, but she was aware of the risks she was taking. Qandeel was confident of her sexuality; that in itself is a feminist trait. Comparisons with Malala, however, are misplaced. Every small act of rebellion will contribute to something larger at some point. Baloch’s was that small act of rebellion, though it took a huge toll on her. How the victim led her life is her choice. Her death is shocking and deplorable. We keep hearing echoes of “she was asking for it”. It is a disgusting and sick mind that asks the victim to take precaution instead of going after the perpetrator.
Gaurav Gera, comedian and actor: ‘She supported her family’
Qandeel played two different roles, one in front of the camera and the other off it. As far as feminism is concerned, yes she had a voice. She supported her family that even her brother didn’t. The way she lived her life made her stand out. There are countless people who have the equipment to shoot and record, but it’s really few who manage to grab attention. The way she lived her life should be highlighted. Her folks got her married at 17 against her wishes. After a prolonged struggle, when she finally came into her own, it ended for her. Who knows, in five years’ time, she would have turned into a great social worker. The incident is deeply hurtful and makes me angry. Yes, she had that sensual image but that is what made her Qandeel. Pakistan has lost a voice.
Rekha Raj, Amnesty International: ‘Qandeel contributed to a cause’
Qandeel was a woman who expressed her views frankly. The meaning of feminism has a lot of connotations and can be interpreted in various ways. A woman challenging patriarchy or trying to analyse patriarchy through their social context is generally termed a feminist. I believe that Qandeel contributed to a feminist cause. Be it at home, in society or the country, women are considered to be the gatekeepers of honour and that in turn is related to a woman’s body or more specifically how she chooses to use her body. The more a woman remains within the society-deemed moral standards, she becomes a saint and if she does not conform, she becomes a rebel. Also the borders between reality and virtual reality are getting blurred, so you cannot discount or belittle a woman who has her views on social media because there is no escaping the impact of social media now. I know a lot of people who put provocative or frank views on their social sites and become celebrities. At the same time, a lot of people do a lot of good work that goes unnoticed. Be it in the virtual world or the real world, it is important to make a mark somewhere.
Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal, theatre Person: Who are we to judge Qandeel baloch?
One can’t compare Qandeel to Malala, their reasons were different. Yes, I think she was a feminist and people today don’t know the exact definition of feminism. It is a radical notion and means women are also human beings. It’s up to women to decide how they want to lead their lives and she chose a certain way. Who are we to judge her? Do we question heroines who dance and wear certain kind of clothes? As long as her actions did not harm anyone she was correct in her own way. Do we question men when they remove their shirts and prance around wearing nothing? Is there no ‘dishonour’ associated then?
Vibha Batra, author: Everyone should have the right to live
Is this really even about feminism? I personally feel that the entire dialogue around Qandeel’s death should be premised on having the basic freedom to be who we are. You need not be a feminist to do that. Everyone should have that right. We should not even associate the word “honour” with what has happened to her. This is murder. As for the comparison between her and Malala, I feel it isn’t about just these two women but about everyone of us. Women are labelled by the way they dress and speak everywhere in the world. Yes, Qandeel’s ‘sensual’ image has made her a bigger talking point. But there needs to be a dialogue around this.
Sharada Vijay, author and poet: ‘She put herself on the table for the world to see’
This has been the classic case where media has tried to portray a woman in bad light after her death. More than the murder, what’s now talked about is what could have got her murdered. She could have sat in her home, done her prayers and worn the hijab, and maybe then she would have been safe. But she tried to express herself boldly. And she rightly said that her country would not let her move forward. Both Qandeel and Malala had distinct issues to address in their lives but both of them are unified in the fact that women should step forward in society and be the change for the other women. I think the difference between them is the way of life they took to make the change possible. Malala fights for the equality between men and women when it comes to education and Baloch led a life where she was unapologetic about who she was. She literally put herself on the table for the world to see. That’s how I see her.