“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”
– Gloria Steinem
A true act of courage is speaking out for what you believe in even if it’ll cost you your life. 26-year-old Qandeel Baloch did what came naturally to her. She was one of Pakistan’s most popular internet celebrities and certainly a divisive figure. Baloch wasn’t afraid to flaunt her sexuality and the divorcee was known to post provocative selfies and videos on social media. A self-promoter who knew how to draw attention, she infamously promised to perform a striptease if Pakistan’s cricket team won a match against India. For those wondering, they lost.
If Qandeel Baloch was born in the U.S., she might still be alive. But born into a strict patriarchal society, she fought tooth and nail just to be herself. She refused to be controlled by men. Forced into an abusive marriage in her teens, Baloch (real nameFauzia Azeem) left her husband a year and a half later. She also died at the hands of a man – one very close to her. Baloch was killed on July 15th by her 16-year-old brother Waseem Azeem.
“I am proud of what I did,” he said in a confession video, admitting to drugging and strangling his older sister. “Girls are born to stay home and follow traditions. My sister never did that.”
Much like in life, Baloch is a symbol of female empowerment after death. Almost 4500 people have signed a petition posted by Action for a Progressive Pakistan calling for Azeem to be brought to justice.
“She was killed because an inordinately fragile, male ego couldn’t handle her flame,” the petition states. “She was killed because patriarchal structures sustain unequal gender relations with both men and women believing that violence against women is unremarkable, ordinary, and even deserved.”
Unfortunately, in this day and age, Baloch’s untimely death isn’t uncommon. In 2015, nearly 1,100 women were killed in “honor killings” in Pakistan. Those accused of committing the murders often get away with their crimes. Under the law, if the victim’s family forgives the killer or reaches an agreement with them, charges can be dropped.
Dubbed the Kim Kardashian of Pakistani, Baloch’s death has galvanized a movement in her country. Weeks after her death, it was announced Pakistan’s ruling party would pass legislation to remove the loophole that allows family members to pardon a killer in cases of honor killings.
“I believe I am a modern day feminist,” Qandeel Baloch wrote the day before she was killed “I believe in equality. I need not to choose what type of women should be. I don’t think there is any need to label ourselves just for sake of society. I am just a women with free thoughts free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM.”