To Nooran Makhdoom, the writer of the drama ‘Tere Bin’.
How you chose to write your script is your own business. But to say that a heinous act like marital rape is justified and needed for the script is completely wrong and horrifying, as well as an insight into how the Pakistani entertainment industry keeps alienating women every year.
This spectacle started on Friday, when the promo for the upcoming episode showed that after accusing Murtasim of cheating on her with Haya, Meerab is raped by her husband as punishment. Social media users were rightfully horrified, which led to a stream of hashtags like ‘Shame on Tere Bin Makers’ and ‘Nooran’, with users beginning to withdraw their support from the once popular drama, and criticising the production team for taking such a heinous step without realising its consequences and impact.
Instead of listening to your fans and hearing their well-justified complaints about Meerab’s rape, you, Ms. Makhdoom, have instead decided to double down on your stand and defend it. In your statement to Arab News, you said that this is just a drama, and that this had not happened for the first time, so fans should stop complaining about every single episode.
Now, Ms Makhdoom, we have to point out that you are entirely wrong to dismiss these complaints. Because:
a. Marital rape is a crime, and many women in Pakistan suffer from it.
b. Films and dramas are more than just means of entertainment. They are powerful tools to influence audiences.
Let us break down all of this to you because clearly, you are not aware about the audience you are writing for.
Marital rape has been declared as a human rights violation by the United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights in 1993, when they included it in the ‘Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women’. However, in Pakistan where approximately 40% of women have experienced physical or emotional violence in their lifetime, there are no laws that recognise this as an illegal act.
Already Ms. Makhdoom, you must be aware that the country you are writing dramas for, is one where women are not granted financial independence or any form of security so that if they are suffering from violence, they find some solace and escape. But because of cultural restrictions that prevent women from finding support, as well as a dilapidating justice system that refuses to help survivors, very few women live to see the day when they are able to escape their abusers with ease.
So to stress on why saying this is ‘just a drama’ is wrong, these kinds of scenes undermine the difficult realities of women in Pakistan. It refuses to acknowledge them as individuals with the right to reject sex from men, whether or not they are married to them. And such actions being normalised by some of the top rated dramas in this country will only further erode the little progress that has improve the rights of women in Pakistan.
Furthermore, dramas aren’t ‘just dramas’ Ms. Makhdoom, but powerful instruments of change that can influence the masses that are watching them. As a script writer, you do not get to evade the responsibility that comes with being a public figure, because ultimately the public looks up to you and is watching your dramas to learn more about the society around them. Which is why, it speaks volumes about the way our entertainment industry has continued to dig itself further and further into a hole when one of the highest rated dramas of a country which has been declared as the fourth most dangerous country for women, thinks that showing marital rape is okay.
It’s never okay. And we urge you, Ms. Makhdoom, to stop hiding behind such baseless defences, and actually look down to see the consequences of the narrative you are promoting. Women in Pakistan are in pain. And it is only when public figures like you take responsibility for your actions and stop churning out such debauched dramas for the sake of good ratings, that we can actually progress forward.
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