Cruel dramas

Published September 1, 2023

THE storyline is old but its insensitivity is impossible to ignore. Our entertainment industry has, for long, used crimes against women as provocative ploys to spice up dramas. Its depictions are far from representative of a host of tragedies. So, we find ourselves hailing a ban to protect victims and crush the rape culture. On Wednesday, the TV drama Hadsa — clearly a misnomer, as there was nothing ‘accidental’ about the Motorway gang-rape in 2020, on which the serial was seemingly centred — was taken off air by Pemra. Criticism and complaints pertaining to the subject and its callous treatment prompted the action. While the regulator accurately observed that “showing such a serious crime could reopen the wounds of the victim”, linking it to “the country’s reputation” was unwarranted.

Contrary to the play’s unsettling title, rape has to be seen for what it is — a crime of power, not to be framed in a way that betrays the uninformed belief that the victim is ‘dishonoured’ by it. In fact, one-dimensional portrayals of the violated — from marital rape in intimate partner violence, domestic abuse to other atrocities — limit societal responsibility and trivialise the reform of male conditioning. Scores took umbrage at the serial’s shocking insensitivity as it spelt a disconnect with women’s grievances. Stories of women and transgender persons rarely explore complexities of gender, victimhood and healing in an artistic and concerned way. Instead of a sobering approach, our slant is mediaeval: even an extramarital liaison is validated for the male, becoming a tool to oppress. Transpeople are reduced to caricatures, with scripts replete with transphobic slurs and plots that treat their gender identity as a dirty secret, making them living taboos. We can only expect a shift if narratives originate from the survivor’s lens, wade into the criminal mind, and the audience sees the painful journey to recovery. Until then, the cost of an odious mix of fantasy and humiliation will remain a brutal culture.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2023

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