Story of a suffering woman in Pakistan
Pakistan makes endless claims that Pakistani culture and religion respect women, however, the deep dark truth is that there is no respect, not even at a superficial level. Pakistani upbringing is such that women quietly align themselves with the patriarchal structure without daring to question it. A proud Pakistani, can now boast of achieving the coveted feat of the 4th most dangerous country for women in the world. Well nothing new, except for squashing it and terming it as propaganda against Pakistan or Muslim women worldwide this study too will be buried soon again in their minds.
The following article was published on Jun 08 by Pakistani popular daily ~ Dawn, and we couldn’t concur more.
In Pakistan’s popular culture, consisting of its television dramas, its own films and the films from across the border it deems acceptable enough to be screened, there is a single story told about women over and over again:
“It is the story of the suffering woman, the woman who has myriad injustices done to her but who nonetheless — and this is the important part — continues to suffer silently, stoically, patiently, with utter resignation and without any fight”
This is the story of women that Pakistan is happy to accept. Narratives that challenge this story are met with resistance — consider Mahira Khan’s Verna, which follows this narrative of the suffering woman, but then flips it by having her take charge and fight back, and which was, therefore, initially banned in the country and only released after much fervor.
But as the recent Central Board of Film Censors ban of Bollywood film Veere Di Wedding shows, narratives that tell an entirely different story about women are deemed completely unacceptable and are rejected outright: A story in which women party and dance with their friends, a story in which women have fun and celebrate in each other’s company, in which women are joyous and happy.
“While the stoically suffering woman is embraced, the happy woman can’t even get a foot in the door”
There are other stories about women that Pakistan also rejects. The story of women who bleed, for example. Earlier this year, the same censor board also banned Pad Man, the Akshay Kumar-starrer biopic about an Indian man who became a pioneer of menstrual health when he devised a low-cost way producing sanitary pads. Apparently, the censor board members couldn’t even bring themselves to watch the film before refusing to issue a clearance certificate for it.
We cannot allow a film whose name, subject and story are not acceptable yet in our society,” a board member told reporters, because even though the vast majority of Pakistani women bleed, the single story of the suffering woman does not allow room for women to bleed unless it is from a wound inflicted on them.
As a point of contrast, at around the same time of the ban on Pad Man, Bollywood epic Padmavaat, with its scene of a large group of women stoically walking into a large fire to commit mass suicide to a score of dramatic music, was deemed completely acceptable for Pakistan and was screened in theaters across the country.
Women suffer everyday in Pakistan, from everything from domestic abuse to lack of access to health facilities, from rape to illiteracy to harassment in the workplace and on the roads. Of course women suffer — far too much than is comprehensible, and far too often with no justice, restitution or respite. And art that sheds a light on the different ways in which society causes pain and trauma to women is something to be lauded.
The mini-series Akhri Station (based On Real Life Events) released earlier this year, for example, was celebrated for articulating the different forms of oppression of Pakistani women thoughtfully and carefully.
Women in all eras have been told to keep their dreams to the eye of a needle. Roshaneh Zafar, the managing director of Kashf Foundation, while acquainting ‘Akhri Station’ revealed “The story dwells upon the diversity of women, their sufferings and the plague of injustice which has rotten our Pakistani society. We reached out to different women facing severe challenges since we needed this project to be based on real-life stories.Their stories turned out to be ‘soul-shaking’. The atrocities they faced were so severe that most of it cannot be depicted on local television.”
The women in Pakistan need to demand change and challenge the political, social and religious institutions. It is high time that state authorities accept that women’s rights in Pakistan have failed primarily because of Pakistani culture of intolerance and impunity. And they should stop boasting of it until they have no more cases of innocent Zainab or rebellious Qundal Baloch in Pakistan.The need of the hour is that these women get thinking and act intelligently to safeguard their own interests and of their future generations.
12 Jun 2018/Tuesday. Written by Afsana
For further reading …