Reconciling Pakistan’s Honour (Or Not)

Reconciling Pakistan’s Honour (Or Not)

The one good (and bad) thing about internet and social networking sites is that if you have access to them, you can no longer not know what is going on in the world, in your country, in your city and even in the neighbourhood around you.

So, as I have been logging into my online accounts, I have been experiencing what we all do at some level or another, an information overdose on my newsfeed, which sadly, since a very long time, hasn’t been a cause for rejoice or celebration. Instead, depression, confusion and fear has replaced the original charm of connecting with distanced friends and family members. So a whole new level of the use of social media can be seen to have emerged wherein it has turned out to be a tool and weapon for spreading awareness on causes and issues and mobilizing people for the same.

All of this is good at some level I suppose. Awareness is a good thing and one should make informed decisions without being kept in the dark, however, when the devil is out, it is out and makes no distinction between the good, bad and ugly. The rules apply across the board while the impact and implications, well they go hand in hand.

Much of our online existence and aggression is actually a reflection of our character, our values and our collective sense of being in the offline world, so contrasting views converting into verbal battles is all too common. Intolerance is all too common and with it, abuse is all too common, for that is how we actually are.

Unfortunately, most of us are all too oblivious of the interplay of the online and offline world and fail to appreciate the impacts our online existence can have on our offline world. The Qandeel Baloch case is an example at point. However, what disturbs me is that I see a lot of discrepancy in terms of our definitions of core concepts such as ‘honour’.

How can honour be limited to and restricted to the female members of the family? Are the men not supposed to carry the honour of the family on their shoulders? Are they, and why if so, exempt from even the possibility of bringing shame to the family when in fact nothing can bring more shame to a family than a person who indulges in criminal activities such as killing or harassing or raping or torturing and abusing, etc?  If we are that headstrong about defending our honours then we should as a society equally punish the male members of the family when they deviate.

This thought is what brings me to the topic of this article, i.e. reconciling Pakistan’s honour. I wish to understand and question how can we reconcile honour killings with harassment and other such opposing and contradictory practices prevalent in our society, for we can either be “an honourable society” or a society which lacks honour and ends up harassing and murdering and abusing its fellow people. We cannot be both without being contradictory of course.

Harassment exists in many shapes and forms in our society, from workplaces to public spaces and even our homes. From verbal to physical and psychological forms, it manifests itself in the most subtle and in the most obvious forms, so much so that at times people do not even realize it themselves that they are in fact harassing another person.

What is most disturbing about the prevalence of such practices is that all too often they are accompanied with preconceived or rather ill-conceived notions which somehow put the blame on the victim for having ‘asked for’ such behaviour. That can never and should never be taken as a justification or excuse. The longer we accept this rhetoric or reiterate or even think that the victim had something to do with initiating the harassment ushered towards her, the more draconian and entrenched this practice would become. There is absolutely no excuse or justification for harassing anyone for any reason in any way at all, period.

For a society which is so headstrong and adamant about keeping its honour to an extent to even justify the most heinous crime against mankind (and women in particular), i.e. murder, it is unsettling to observe that in that same society harassment of women is also as common as honour killing is, if not more.

So as social media put forth, there was a murder justified as honour killing in my news feed, and another story about how a women was harassed by frustrated motorcyclists on the street and yet another, how several others were silenced or killed or ‘taught a lesson’ for not ‘conforming’. All of this is totally irreconcilable and tells me a lot about the kind of twisted values we have and the twisted society we have become online and offline.

For any real progress to ensue, we need to work towards bridging the gaps in our shared values through education, dialogue and discourse.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any other organization with which she might be associated.

Nida Usman Chaudhary

Author: Nida Usman Chaudhary

The writer is the founder of Lahore Education and Research Network and can be reached at [email protected]