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‘Honor Killings’ and the Murder of a Social-Media Star

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On July 15, Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social-media star, was strangled to death by her brother for “dishonoring” the family name by being outspoken about female sexuality. So-called honor killings are widespread in Pakistan, where more than 1,000 women were killed by relatives in 2015. But they’re a global issue:


Honor killings–which claim thousands each year, mostly in Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities–stem not from religion but from traditional patriarchy and occur when women are seen as having dishonored their families. Murderers often get off lightly, especially in Pakistan, where a legal loophole allows the guilty relative to walk free if families forgive them.


The bulk of reported cases happen in Pakistan, India and Middle Eastern countries like Jordan, Afghanistan and Yemen. But the West is no stranger to such killings in diaspora communities: each year, there are an average of 10 to 12 in the U.K., 13 in the Netherlands and 27 in the U.S. Many more likely go unreported.


The death of Baloch has sparked outrage in Pakistan, fueled by her massive fan base. Under pressure from women’s activist groups, the government announced plans on July 20 to close the “forgiveness” loophole. But it might take more than legal reforms to end this deep-rooted and deadly custom.


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