Often times, we are judgmental about the impact of an annual awareness holiday. They appear as one-time commitments to advancing an issue that many struggle with on a daily basis. It may feel like a cop-out; a limited engagement is the easy route to participating in a movement, yet it ignores an ongoing conflict that we have the privilege of not experiencing. Of course, one person cannot involve their daily life to several campaigns -- that, of course, leads to activist burnout.
However, we must constantly underscore movements if we wish to see tangible change. “Orange Day,” for example, does not stop at preventing gender violence by asking supporters to wear orange one day out of the year. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon initiated this holiday in tandem with the UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women. Together, they have declared the 25th of every month “Orange Day” as as an extension of the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women” on November 25th.
This month, UN Women for Youth (among others) are celebrating Orange Day to End Honor Killings. This is especially urgent as we remember Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media mogul who fell victim to an honor killing. She was often touted as the “Pakistani Kim Kardashian” for the ways in which she displayed her body. However, many conservatives believed exposing her legs, chest, and even performing a strip tease were all abominable, obscene ways for a Pakistani woman to act. Her sexy cleavage shots and makeup-covered face were indecent and a poor representation of Pakistani women.
Unfortunately, her media presence was so shameful that her brother, Waseem, drugged and asphyxiated her while she was asleep in her family’s home. Waseem reportedly feels no shame or regret for having executed what is commonly known as an “honor killing” - a means of restoring the honor, pride, and reputation of a family by killing whoever threatened that honor. The “crime” is then forgiven with the death and the case is dropped, successfully rebuilding the family’s image. However, women and girls are disproportionately targeted as the victims of these killings in patriarchal societies. In Pakistan alone, more than 1000 women died at the hands of honor killings in 2015. However, this only includes documented cases, and organizations such as Honor Based Violence Awareness Network, warn that these numbers are “severe underestimates” as there is little reporting and women are often discouraged to report cases out of fear for challenging the status quo.
Qandeel’s suffering did not begin with this honor killing, however. She grew up in an impoverished, conservative neighborhood in Punjab where she worked as a bus hostess. Baloch was married off in her late teens. After later giving birth to her first child, her husband became increasingly abusive to the point where Baloch ended the relationship and left.
She rose to fame after appearing on television, posting racy videos on YouTube, and showing revealing images on Instagram. However, she became a true threat when she vocalized her criticisms of patriarchy. She tweeted such messages as, “As a women we must stand up for ourselves..As a women we must stand up for each other…” as well as “Life has taught me lessons in a early age...My journey from a girl to a SELF DEPENDENT WOMEN was not easy. #Qandeel.”
Unfortunately, violent messages amassed to the point where Baloch began receiving death threats. She requested government protection multiple times, however, she was turned down as the gravity of her issue was not considered urgent or serious enough. Due to government neglect and performing the “crime” of daring to be a public figure and “unapologetically Qandeel,” she suffered at the hands of Waseem, who assumed the family name was restored.
“I will fight for it. I will not give up. I will reach my goal. & absolutely nothing will stop me.#qandeelbaloch