Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy made history on Sunday by becoming the first Pakistani to win two Oscars when she bagged the award in the short documentary category for her film on honour killings.
The filmmaker was recognised for A Girl In The River, which follows the life of 19-year-old Saba Qaiser, who survived after she was shot in the face by her father and uncle and thrown into a river in Punjab province because she ran away to marry the man she loved.
Wearing a floor-length black coat by designer Sana Safinaz over a matching dress, she earlier walked the red carpet with her mother and the team from SOC Films.
“This is what happens when determined women get together,” she said as she accepted the golden statuette. She praised “all the brave men out there, like my father and my husband, who push women to go to school and work and who want a more just society for women”.
She also thanked Qaiser, “the girl in my film who remarkably survived honour killing and shared her story”. The filmmaker took to Facebook to announce: “Pakistan, we just won our 2nd Oscar!!”
Talking to Pakistani media on Monday, Obaid-Chinoy said the Oscar will go a long way in addressing the issue of honour killings in Pakistan. She said she would take Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif up on his promise of government action to stop the killing of men and women in the name of honour.
Watch the trailer of A Girl In The River here:
After meeting Obaid-Chinoy recently in Islamabad, Sharif had vowed to “rid Pakistan of this evil by bringing in appropriate legislation”.
Obaid-Chinoy won her first Academy Award in 2012 in the same category for Saving Face, which was about a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon who treats victims of acid attacks.
It is estimated that more than 1,000 women die as a result of honour killings in Pakistan every year. Despite the passage of a bill in 2015 that aimed at closing loopholes in the law, the number of killings increased.
Aurat Foundation, a leading women’s rights group, says that while honour killings have no official sanction, they are treated differently by police and authorities.
“Many of the decisions to kill women are taken by a tribal council of elders and is implemented with their sanction,” says a report of the foundation. But police almost never charge these elders for being part of the crime.
Women have been attacked and killed on suspicion of infidelity. There have been instances of women being killed after they were seen without appropriate clothing in public.
In other instances, women were murdered by male relatives when someone passed a comment about them. “These misplaced notions of honour continue to survive in our society particularly in rural areas,” said Saad Zuberi, who works with Obaid-Chinoy.
In 2015, Pakistan’s Senate or upper house of parliament passed the Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill and the Anti-Honour Killings Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill, both moved by Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Syeda Sughra Imam.
Imam said honour killings are common throughout the country but official figures do not include unreported cases or, indeed, the number of men who are often killed alongside women in the name of honour.