The toxic male ego has claimed yet another victim in Pakistan — this time, someone a lot more well-known than an average woman, although no less vulnerable.
Qandeel Baloch, a self proclaimed "modern day feminist" touted as Pakistan's first social media celebrity, first emerged on Facebook newsfeeds sometime last year.
Initially, her videos showed her adjusting her hair and asking the viewers, "How em looking?"
Pakistanis found these videos mildly amusing, sharing the clips thousands of times. Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, also regularly posted selfies on social media, promoting a message that hurt the fragile masculinity of many.
On Friday night, Baloch was allegedly strangled by her brother who believed that she was "dishonoring" the family name. The accused killer, who had reportedly fled with her money and jewelry, was arrested on Sunday.
Many Pakistani men found her unabashed sexuality appealing. They deliriously consumed her photos, videos and status updates, before leaving threats of murder and rape below them.
There were also calls to ban her, take down the page, silence her. Many wondered why could her family simply not "control" her. Just like her brother, many believed that she was dishonoring her country with her clothes and her broken English accent.
She had more than 600,000 Facebook fans and more than 100,000 followers on Instagram.
The backlash against Baloch intensified last week after details of her personal life came to light.
A man named Aashiq Hussain revealed he had been married to the model and they had a son together. Baloch fought back, claiming the marriage was forced on her, and she had escaped after her husband threatened to throw acid on her face. She had salvaged herself with the help of NGOs and was living life on her own terms.
However, many accused her of abandoning a child and leading a sinful life. This overwhelming malign toward Baloch, along with societal conditioning, was what led to her murder.
A week before her death, she spoke about her journey talking to a local newspaper DAWN.
"I’ve fought with everyone," she said. "And now I have become so headstrong that I only do what I want. I started working in showbiz, I faced so many difficulties, you know what happens with girls here. You know what kinds of offers they make girls here. You know how they try to misuse girls who are new to the industry."
After her death, the newspaper reported that Baloch had requested security from government three weeks before her death.
These requests were ignored.
This is far from the first so-called honor killing in Pakistan. Women are regularly killed to settle scores and for stepping out of line or refusing to be forced into marriages, and still Pakistan refuses to act.
It would be unfair to say that it was just one man who killed Baloch. The entire society, who sniggered at her story, dismissed her concerns for her safety and left the totally harmless "kill yourself" comment under her photos, shoulders the blame.
This is not just a criminal matter, but a cultural one. The media, clergy, citizens had all fanned the flames of hatred toward Baloch, flames that threaten to swallow an entire country.
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