When Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy accepted the Academy Award for her short documentary film A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, about a woman who survives a planned honor killing, she got straight to the point: “This is what happens when determined women get together.” She acknowledged men too — men who push women “to go to school and work and who want a more just society for women.”
Honor killings occur around the world, but most frequently in South Asia. Women are murdered because they object to a forced marriage or otherwise defy their families — or sometimes even because they have been victims of rape. Thousands of such killings occur annually, but many go unreported, according to human rights groups.
The United States has long condemned violence against women and girls wherever it occurs. A special White House report, 1 is 2 Many: Twenty Years of Fighting Violence Against Women and Girls, details steps taken to combat such crimes at home and internationally.
A Girl in the River tells “the remarkable story of a very courageous young woman who survived an attempt at an honor killing by her father and uncle,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. “Even more remarkable was that after the initial screening, [Pakistan’s] Prime Minister [Nawaz] Sharif pledged to change laws that allow such barbaric practices and murders.”
“That is the power of film,” Obaid-Chinoy said about the prime minister’s reaction.
President Obama encourages artists, who “have a unique power to change minds and attitudes,” to help end gender-based violence. “Together we can change our culture for the better by ending violence against women and girls,” he told the 2015 Grammy Awards audience.
This is Obaid-Chinoy’s second Oscar. She won the first in 2012 for her film Saving Face, about women who are victims of acid attacks.