Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Wednesday banned the airing of a drama serial titled “Hadsa.”
The decision came in response to a complaint from a lawyer who argued that Geo TV’s show, centered around the 2020 motorway gang-rape case, should be banned. The move was prompted by concerns and criticism regarding the show’s subject matter.
The regulator noted that the prevailing sentiment among the public was that depicting such a serious crime could not only reopen the wounds of the victim but also tarnish the country’s international reputation. There was also concern that viewers from other countries might perceive Pakistan as unsafe for women due to the portrayal of such a distressing incident.
“The viewers expressed dissatisfaction with the storyline and concept of the drama series ‘Hadsa,’ which is based on a real incident that occurred on the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway,” stated the electronic media watchdog.
Barrister Khadija Siddiqi, a high court advocate, had filed a complaint through Mohammad Ahmed Pansota. The complaint called for action under Section 27 of the PEMRA Ordinance 2002 and other relevant legal provisions against the mentioned TV drama series.
Barrister Pansota mentioned that he was approached by the rape survivor herself, seeking legal recourse against the broadcast of the drama series. Together with Barrister Siddiqui, he filed a complaint with PEMRA, urging its immediate suspension.
Similarly, the UKS Research Centre also lodged a complaint with PEMRA against the drama series, emphasizing the need for an immediate halt to its screening. Members of Hopscotch, a media monitoring group, also submitted complaints, demanding a public apology from the production company, writer, director, producer, and the entire cast for causing mental distress to the survivor.
The group claimed that employing this narrative without the survivor’s consent invades her privacy and inflicts emotional pain, given the explicit depiction of her ordeal. Hopscotch insisted on compensation for making her relive the trauma and emphasized the media’s responsibility to educate itself on sensitive topics like rape and mental health. The application was endorsed by Sheema Kermani, Tasneem Ahmar, Afia Salam, and many other signatories.
In September 2020, a woman fell victim to a sexual assault on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway, an incident that triggered protests and sparked widespread outrage. However, airing nearly three years later, the Geo TV drama faced significant backlash for perceived parallels to the 2020 case, particularly since it did not obtain the survivor’s consent.
The creators of the show vehemently deny any connection to the actual incident. Hadiqa Kiani, who plays the lead female protagonist, took to social media on Tuesday to express her perspective. She wrote, “Knowing that something I have been a part of is being used to hurt and trigger a survivor is something I cannot stand for.”
While discussing the distressing portrayal of rape and sexual violence on screen, she stressed the importance of incorporating trigger warnings, as reported by Dawn Images. She mentioned, “These warnings would serve as a precautionary measure for those who have experienced such heinous acts.”
Wajahat Rauf, the producer and director of the drama, underscored that the only resemblance between their story and the 2020 rape case was the location of the incident, which occurred on a highway.
However, these explanations failed to appease social media users. Journalist Quatrina Hosain expressed her reservations about the drama’s title, stating, “Rape is not a ‘Hadsa’ or accident. It’s an act of deliberate violence. It’s a crime,” in a post on X.
In response to Mr. Rauf’s claims, journalist Fareeha Idrees shared an account of her conversation with the survivor, explaining that she was reliving her trauma through the show. She argued that even if the drama was not based on her story, “it is morally wrong to dramatize the story of a victim.
Closure of hadsa dram
The closure of the controversial drama “Hadsa,” which was banned in Pakistan, marks a pivotal moment where art, sensitivity, and social responsibility intersect. This decisive action by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) reflects a broader societal apprehension surrounding the depiction of traumatic events, particularly those involving sexual assault, in the media.
The ban of the drama has set off fervent debates, not only about the ethical obligations of content creators but also about the profound impact of such portrayals on survivors and society as a whole. While the drama’s creators vehemently denied any direct connection to the 2020 motorway gang-rape case, the public’s unease and criticism were unmistakable.
The suspension of “Hadsa” underscores the paramount importance of considering the emotional well-being of survivors and the potential harm that explicit portrayals of such incidents can inflict. It also underscores the pressing need for trigger warnings and responsible storytelling when tackling sensitive subjects.
As this chapter in the drama’s narrative concludes, it serves as a poignant reminder of the media’s power to mold perceptions and shape societal attitudes. It spurs discussions about the precarious balance between artistic expression and social consciousness, reinforcing the notion that responsible storytelling and a compassionate approach to traumatic events must take precedence in today’s media landscape.
In essence, the ban on “Hadsa” is not merely a censorship measure but a catalyst for a broader conversation about the moral and ethical dimensions of content creation, the impact it has on individuals and society, and the imperative to treat sensitive subjects with the utmost care and consideration.
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