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Romantic rapist ?

Bay-Khudi 2.jpg

As a corollary , just look at the images used to advertise this serial centered on such a strong topic .It defies logic !

To their credit Pakistani dramas have never been shy of addressing difficult or controversial subjects and over the past few viewing seasons there has been an uptick in stories touching on difficult social issues .Hum Tv’s recent hit Udaari is a prime example, garnering not only ratings and a fan following, but much critical acclaim for its sensitive handling of a potentially disturbing subject like child rape. ARY TV’s award winning drama Roag also managed to give the full impact of this most heinous of crimes in without lurid details. However not every drama has managed to meet these high standards and some like Ary ‘s Chup Raho,  and Hum Tv’s Sangat and Gul E Rana, have come in for strong criticism for their misleading depictions.

Just like murder, rape is a crime as old as the hills and its use as a plot devise is nothing new. However, unlike the old days when the hero’s sister conveniently commits suicide after being “defiled”, or the victim is married of to the repentant sinner rapist in order to restore “honour”; rape victims are now shown surviving and overcoming their ordeal, courageously demanding justice at all costs. With the highly competitive and commercial nature of today’s drama industry, it seems as if those few steps forward are being undermined by a lot of steps backwards.  The motif of the “romantic rapist “ has made a resurgence in serials like Sangat , Gul e Rana , Muqqadas and the most recent cause of outrage , Ary ‘s Bay Khudi. Episodes 3 and 4 of Bay Khudi show an angry man whose proposal has been rejected, sneaking into the family home and raping his unsuspecting cousin in a well-planned fit of jealous rage and then tearing himself up with remorse. In what looks like an attempt to beat Hum Tv’s incredibly crass use of the lyrics “ Mera jism mera gunnah hai “( which seemed to imply the victim somehow raped herself because her body was the focus of the sin) , viewers were treated to the lyrics “”nadaniyaan jo hamse huwee maaf kar dey Khuda “.Apparently a planned , violent rape  by a competent ,  fully conscious male is  a “nadaani” in Ary’s lexicon.

While no one can deny the sad truth that such things happen, the presentation of the rapist as an otherwise wonderful, in fact otherworldly wonderful guy in all other respects who just happens to make this one “bad decision” is completely inappropriate and untrue. Such a personality may be an incredibly manipulative liar who can deceive others at will but he should be shown as such, or his tendency to cruelty and violence must show in his other behaviour.   With so many dramas on air, it’s difficult for channels to keep up with every detail of their content but this disturbing trend definitely warrants close inspection.. What message is sent by such characterisations, what precedents are being set in the minds of those watching: that rape is ok, if you are ‘in love’, that it is just a sign of uncontrollable passion, that ‘good people’ can do this?

Research shows that rape is never about love or romance; rather it is about control, dominance and complete humiliation. While it may be too much to say that such soft portrayals are encouraging this behaviour, they certainly are making it more palatable by wrapping it up in dreamy, ambiguous glow that distances the viewer from the raw viciousness of the act. As a caveat its important to note that Pakistani dramas do not exist in isolation : as with all media in today’s highly connected society there is a strong cross pollination effect at work , where popular trends from all over the world effect and inspire the stories we see on our screens. While it’s easy to accuse a badly made Urdu drama of feeding into rape culture, perhaps we can also point out the way western serials like Game of Thrones and books like Fifty Shades of Gray also feed into the same narrative yet are swallowed wholesale as “entertainment”.The normalization of sexual violence is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. We asked several prominent drama makers their opinion and here is what they said:

 Noor Hassan – Actor (who plays the lead/rapist in Bay Khudi)

“The message of Bay khudi is that even if one successfully gets away with the crime, one never manages to be happy or content. And eventually has to pay for it”

Farhat Ishtiaq – Writer of Udaari, Udaari , Humsafar etc

As writers we have to be very serious & responsible while writing on such issues.. It’s never ok to force sex on someone. It is unforgivable. Period! I was very clear about Paa Imtiaz’s character. He was a child rapist… I even didn’t try to create some justifications for his wrong doings.. for example that he was Abused as a child or any other reason to justify his evil nature

Mustapha Afridi –writer of Sange Mar Mar and Aseerzadi

Rape ghalti nahi jurm hay orr mujram ko saza hoti hay shadi nahi. Agar aisay sick heros dikhanay hain orr oss ki hawas ko mazlomiat orr masoomiat ka libas dena hay tu society ka end .Her dosra larka Jo khud ko hero samjhta hay woh yahi kam start kar day tu khud sochain kia ho ga

Mohammad Ehtashamuddin Director of  Udaari and Sadqay Tumharay,

 Rape is real and its painful, a scar for a lifetime.. Bringing to screen such subjects like rape and child abuse is no joke, to me and my team….. “Udaari” was a sheer burden of responsibility, a narrative that is drenched in painful reality…it can’t be sensationalized because epidemics like rape and child abuse are killing our future and destroying all our communities. So by handling this subject very carefully, team Udaari brought to light the pain that accompanied Zebo as a victim, and against all odds also showed her the strength of a survivor. We all have to Stand up as a Nation, Speakout, Seek justice and Spread awareness.

This article appeared in an edited form In Dawn Images

Sadaf Haider

 

 

8 Comments »

  1. Sadaf, respectifully I will have to agree with you on your below statement.

    “While it’s easy to accuse a badly made Urdu drama of feeding into rape culture, perhaps we can also point out the way western serials like Game of Thrones and books like Fifty Shades of Gray also feed into the same narrative yet are swallowed wholesale as “entertainment”.”

    I dont think blaming all the ills of Pakistani society on the West, Western media, Israel etc helps except to deflect. Even Hina Rabbani Khar did that when confronted on Pakistans issues and immediately dragged India into it. Its another ill in our society which refuses to take responsibility for the misogyny and rape culture we have fostered actively or tacitly. Also comparing Fifty Shades of Gray, a concentual relationship between two adults exploring the world of BDSM (which believe it or not, some Muslims too practise) with rape is wrong. I dont watch Game of Thrones but considering the times it takes place in where both rape and consentual sex took place (not really that much different than the content of some hadiths from those times), so I cant really comment. Vikings used to rape when they set upon new lands. Still the comparisons with present day attitudes towards sex and rape are wrong and a problem if you are going to address rape and misogny. In the West you will struggle to find people romantisizing rape. Females are encouraged to come forward and there is a hell of a less stigma attatched to reporting such crimes than there is in Pakistan. Usually men respect a no. They understand a no. Men are not animals who can not control their instincts. An important distinction even though some of our religious scholarship claim otherwise (women without cover are asking for it etc). They also understand that what a woman wears or drinks, does not mean she wants to have sex. Yes the West has its challanges with rape as there will always be rapists but come on, comparing it to what happens in Pakistan is not right. Two entirely different societies and set of norms. Europe is struggling to educate its refugees from predominently Arab nations that no means no and make make drawings showing a woman in a skirt does not mean yes to sex etc. Food for thought.

    I suggest we look at Pakistan and address its rape culture. A nation of 200 million people, which boasts of being an Islamic republic but which can not even foster or maintainn respect for its females. The low rape statistics are misleading as most rape victims will not come forward and the numbers as in all tragedies are underestimated. The dramas play a heavy role in maintaining status quo. A romantic rapist? Really?Let us go over some rape basic.

    Rape is not sex.
    Rape is violence perpetuated against the weaker party by the calculated predator.
    Tv shows do not encourage rape by showing sex. Sex on tv is natural as compared to Pakistan which does not even show kissing let alone sex.
    BDSM is not rape. It a consentual relationship in which the parties agree to engage in what we might call violent sex because they enjoy that. Just like some people enjoy other kinds of sex.
    Rape is void of consent. It has one victim. the raped person.
    Men get raped too both not limited to jails in Pakistan
    Children get raped too.
    Pakistan has next to no rape crisis centres to help rape victims with their trauma.
    Most indicted rapists in Pakistan go scotch free.
    Victims get murdered, burnt, driven to exile, intimidated and blackmailed into silence etc.
    Pakistan still struggles with affording half of its population basic rights and respect.
    Sexual harassment is rampant on the streets of Pakistan and we are expected to stay silent and just pretend it doesnt happen.
    Majority of rapes are committed by somebody you know.
    Incest is rape too. How to you protect your offsrping from their fathers or brothers?
    Rape is not dependent on what you wear etc. Women in full abaya in Middleeast and burqas Afghanistan get raped too.

    Dramas like Bay Khudi, Bus Chup Raho, Sangaat, Gul e Rana etc. do nothing to change attitudes. Instead they maintain status quo through the rdiculous plotlines where the rapists is redeemed or treated as somebody who just made a mistake. Excuse me, but taking off your clothes, forcing your genitals into a person against her will, is NOT a mistake. Its violence and rape. Its sadism and misogyny. Its wrong and nothing in my book will redeem you. I have been so disapponinted b such plotlines. I am in the midst of watching Bay Khudi and episode 20 enraged me too the point that I wish I could summon the writer, Seema Munaf, and ask her if she has lost her marbles and why kept her from educating herself on such a delicate topic before writing a BS story where the rapists is romantic. Ghalti? Nadaani? An expression of love? Really? OMG.

    See I have been in the situation where I came close to rape. Allah saved me. And no, I was not drinking, dress in a skirt, sitting with mixed company. In Pakistan the victim blaming is part of culture. Men can do no wrong and it is always the womans fault and it always she, who must compromise. In Bay Khudi her own mother says its just a mistake which humans make and so she must continue living with her rapists,. Pray tell how this is a mistake. Did his clothes just come undone and he just happen to fall unto the half consciuous girl in her bed in her bedroom where he has no business in the first place? This was also not love. Men who love do not do such to the women they love. People get rejected everyday. Its life. Sometimes you like somebody, and they dont like you back. How many girls have raped the men who rejected them? None. Rape is an active and conscious choice of violently attacking another person. He will never be forgiven.

    Rape is just the physical violence a man can unleash on a female. Lets ponder the mental abuse, the taunting, the grudges held and made vocal whenever it serves the man, the unreasonable demands for dowry, the acid attacks on women married and unmarried of all ages, the social norm of joint family which serves the man and his Family but where the girl often suffers. We as a society dont even acknowledge rape for what it is. We call it “robbing somebody of her selfrespect/dignity” *izzat lootna. Wth? How does the victim get robbed of her dignity when she is the one being raped? Boys will be boys is an attutide which Pakistan has implemented to the point that even our legal system punishes victims and those activists who fight for womens basic human rights. Are females not human? If we hold true that people are not born evil, we must look at our social environments and how we condition males to have such little regard for females when they themselves are birthed by women. Pakistan has been deemed among the (if not THE most dangerous) most dangerous places on earth for women. That speaks volumes when held together what actually goes on in our society. The double standards are horrible and not helpful.

    I feel education alone can not help the progress considering majority of Pakistan remains illiterate and education is not an affordable good for all. It is a mentality thing where women are inferior and men flawless. But tv dramas is something many Watch for entertainment and because of the long standing history dramas enjoy for being social commentary on our society especially the patriarch society and the brutality against women in various ways but also other social issues such as poverty and parallel societies and justice systems etc. So when dramas portray such social evils as romance, a mistake, foolishness they are more than encouraging such behaviour. They are trying to socially condition us into accepting this.We are a conservative society as it is. We dont really question or scrutinize things or openly discuss. Many viewers have taken offense to showing rape on tv as it is. So it is ok to have violent computer games, action movies, horror movies with blood and torture, but not show rape?

    I wish rape would be handled delicately and responsibly so that we may help change the mindsets of both males and females in our society. Kankar questions the legitimacy of domestic violence which is again acceptable in your society by large. As a woman, just dont leave your home. Never mind what goes on in your home and how your husband is. But just dont even think about leaving or divorce. Divorce is a taboo. Even in Bay Khudi it is not explored as an option. Islam affords females great rights in and out of marriage. Yet many do not avail them. They dont even know of them. They think being hafiz without understanding the Quran and the divine hidayah of Allah will be enough. Divorce is not a taboo in Islam but we have made it so. Why are men never questioned for their abandonment of women, the abuse they inflict upon them, the violence against their wives and their eagerness to threaten and carry through with divorce but women are blamed for even thinking about it let alone utter it? I think we will have to wait for a proper drama which will handle the matter of rape responsibly and realistically. It is a shame because with the dimwitted attempts rape is become desentisized and mocked. There needs to be a Pakistani equivalent of SVU. Allah knows there is enough realy life cases and material to use. So we wait.

    I regret rambling on but it just saddens me to se rape being made a mockery of and many people just eating it up instead of question such absurdity. This sadly goes for so many topics and not just rape. I see people on instagram mocking Sajal Ali for her rape roles and I think there is a long way to go in changing these attitudes. A very long way. Seema Munaf et tal do not help. They should be ashamed to be women and to write such horrible absurdities.

    All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for writing this Sadaf. It’s scary how one drama after another is making the ‘hero’ do this kind of stuff. Just awful…To think after the criticism Sangat got, they’d get off this approach..par nahin.

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  3. Thank you so much for reading and commenting . Your point is exactly right , consent is a concept that has to be understood explicitly , it is not enough to assume anything .

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  4. It is important that everyone understands what consent is. I’m fed up with movies showing scenes where there is no consent. Its criminal. Its time for yareally changes to how the world looks at this. Thanks for your posting!

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  5. Most people are stuck with that concept ” what was she wearing , did she used to smile and talk to men, wo wahan ker Kya rahi thee , wahan gaie Kya laynay thee , akailay jaany ki zarooret kya thee ” , their thought process doesn’t go beyond these points or they just don’t bother to think about what you were actually saying. It’s like they are incapable of digesting the fact that ” just became a rapist is a handsome guy, who wears suits, speaks English, comes from a well off family and CLAIMES to be in love with the victim; ” it doesn’t change the fact that what he did was a crime and he is a criminal. Sigh.

    We will be needing a lot of very good written scripts to make the audiences realize that rape is a crime, not a crime committed out of love but like you said, to show power, dominance or to humiliate the victim.

    As always, it was a pleasure reading your take on this story.

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    • Thank You Kiran , you write with so much clarity ! I am sure the people writing and making are normal decent people . Unfortuneatly it looks as if the proper research and analysis was not done and this is what has lead to an over reliance on the imagination of director and writer . The way dramas are written in produced in Pakistan does not help . Its easy for anyone to make a mistake ( sometimes I read my own article and wonder who wrote it !) . There really needs to be a better review and consultation process that helps writers in particular to avoid such mistakes . Perhaps there should be some rough ethical guidelines issued by channels . In other countries there are teams of people working on an episode and there are regular meetings over the direction of the story and character arcs. I understand the tradition is different in Pakistan , but as our dramas gain a more and more visible international profile , the industry will have to meet the challenge .
      The most shocking thing about Noor Hassan’s character in this story and the rapist in Sangat were the the way they were portrayed as anear perfect apart from that one failing . Something not born out be research , while there is bound to be the 1 in 1 billion that might fit that profile the 99.9999 % of rapists are manipulative abusers . Just look at the headlines , it is a sport for these evil people .

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