Yesterday, a female journalist in Balochistan was shot dead. A social activist, an anchorperson at PTV and editor of a Balochi language magazine Dazgohar, Shaheena Shaheen was shot three times in Turbat on Saturday. She succumbed to her bullet injuries at the hospital. According to media reports, Kech Superintendent of Police Najeebullah Pandrani said the killing was the result of domestic violence. Shaheena’s family has nominated her husband in the First Information Report (FIR), whom she married just five months ago.
Spokesperson of the Government of Balochistan Liaquat Shahwani tweeted that the murder seems to be due to a domestic issue and promised that justice would be served. Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz also condemned Shaheena’s murder. He said the government would fulfil its responsibility and bring the culprits to justice.
Shaheena achieved a lot during her short but meaningful life. She was a talented artist, a brave social activist, and a talented journalist. Shaheena’s murder brings forth multiple issues plaguing our society, especially domestic abuse.
Domestic violence is a serious issue in Pakistani context. According to a report released by SSDO in August and titled ‘Tracking Numbers: State of Violence Against Women and Children in Pakistan’, violence against women increased 10 times in just three months in Pakistan. A large number of women are victims of domestic abuse at the hands of their husbands but suffer silently due to multiple reasons, which include family ‘honour’, children’s future, lack of financial independence and the taboo attached to divorce. It is because of their silent suffering and lack of repercussions that these men continue to commit this crime. Some, like Shaheena’s husband, are emboldened enough to even commit murder. Apart from domestic violence, ‘honour killing’ by family members is not an uncommon practice in Pakistan. On Friday, the Supreme Court observed that the killing of women in the name of honour had never been an honourable practice and that such murders should not be categorised as honour killings. “It will help deter such killings if the term ‘Ghairat’ is not used to describe them,” observed Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
Why is it that ‘honour’ is always attached to a woman’s actions and not that of any man in our society? Why is a woman expected to suffer at the hands of her abuser just to save family’s honour? Our lexicon is filled with phrases like, ‘Log kya kaheinge?’ [what will people say?], which make women think twice before leaving an abusive relationship. We wonder what these ‘people’ will say when a woman is murdered by her husband?
The Ministry of Human Rights launched an awareness campaign about domestic abuse and violence in March this year, asking the victims to call their helpline. We have laws against domestic violence and honour killing in place but the major issue is under-reporting of these cases by the victims themselves who choose to stay silent due to societal pressures. It is time to raise awareness across the country and let these women know that they are not alone. The state as well as society stands with them. Shaheena, we hope your murderers are brought to justice. Rest in power, Shaheena!