It used to be that only a limited number of things would get you honor killed. Like dressing provocatively; having sex outside marriage, being gay, getting raped or renouncing your religion. Now you can get honor killed for helping a friend escape a village to marry out of her free will. The ambit of what triggers a community to honor kill is getting wider and wider.
It is only in the absence of the rule of law that communities, tribal in mindset, need to establish that their reputations are not to be taken lightly.
The murder of Amber in Abbatabad is an indication of the slipping rule of law in the PTI governed province. It serves people to establish fierce reputations because it seems like the law is not enough to protect them from losing their assets.
Young women Amber’s age often prank call guys they have a crush on. They send them love notes if they are bolder. Mostly they just look outside a window and daydream an ever-after fantasy with them. It’s a natural part of their biology and hormonal flux.
Amber vicariously lived out hers for her friend Saima. She helped Saima and the boy who Saima loved escape the village to marry. Strangely, in these tribal communities, it is not the presence of sexuality that threatens them but the self-determination of their sexuality. As long as women hand over the reigns of their womanhood to a male guardian and a broader community no one gets killed. When they choose to command it, they risk their lives.
The hideousness of Amber’s murder has a stickiness factor. The image of her charred body at the back of the van she was burned down in stays at the side of one’s mind like gum on a shoe on a summer day. Blackened eye sockets where her eyes once were – with which she may have dreamed and wished her friend a better life.
She was drugged and tied to a van, possibly unconscious when she was burned. One at least hopes so.
What’s even more grating is that a 15-member jirga called by the Makol village elder decreed that Amber is punished in this precise way for her plot to let her friend escape. Whereas there are several ways out for an honor perpetrator to go scot-free by getting the victim’s family to forgive, there is no option of appeal that the Jirga court offers victims, even when they are minors.
As both the ambit of what constitutes an honor crime and the ways to punish victims grows like a wild fire, so do the types of perpetrators. Usually the victim’s mother would try and prevent the crime for obvious reasons. Amber’s mother however felt that the blotch on the family equity Amber brought was heavier than the motherhood that protected her for this long. There is no greater betrayal than this.
These people will be tried in an anti-terrorism court. That is a solace in some ways and is inconsequential in others. To Amber, justice is too little too late. She was born in a world where we cannot figure out that women, despite what any text may say, are just caged souls who just want boys to like them. That women just want to be able to love without death. Kind of like men do.
In a world where there is equality in choosing sexual partners, the horrendous men would be left in a corner. Such a world is unfathomable to jirgas. This is perhaps why I am yet to hear a story where a Jirga ruled in favor of the weak.
It’s 2016 not 1990. We need to move beyond parallel systems of governing and alternate code of ethics. It’s not difficult to spot that societies that dumped traditionalism are at the pinnacle of science and progress, economic and temporal. Somewhere in the world scientists are experimenting on bringing a brain back to life from the dead.
I wish they could do that to societies.