KARACHI: A number of performers clad themselves in red – a colour that is also a symbol of revolution – to call for an end to violence against women in Pakistan.
The auditorium of Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, reverberated with women singing ‘Har Aurat Anmol [Every woman is unique]’ on Saturday. To spread awareness regarding women’s rights and to call for an end to violence against women, Tehrik-e-Niswan organised a seminar in collaboration with Pakistan National Forum for Women Health and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler). The seminar was the concluding ceremony of a two-year project which aimed to educate women all over the country about their rights through theatre plays and dance performances.
Speaking on the occasion, renowned gynaecologist Dr Shershah Syed expressed his views on how suppressed the women of the country are by sharing a few figures. According to him, 400 out of every 100,000 women die in pregnancy-related ailments in Pakistan while only one death is recorded out of every 200,000 women in Sweden. “Feudal lords, religious scholars and our leaders do not care if so many women die but will be worried for their cattle,” said Shah.
Criticising the assemblies and courts, he said that it is our institutions that allow all this brutality against women to happen. However, he stressed, women should stand up to achieve their rights.
During the panel discussion, Tasneem Ahmar, director of the NGO Uks, talked about stereotyping and how media is changing mindsets. “When we started in 1997, only print media was there,” she said, adding that she has reservations over the content aired by electronic media.
The discussion was moderated by advocate Maliha Zia Lari.
Stressing how morally incorrect it is to desensitise the crime of rape in reporting, she said that despite having played its part, media still only cares about catchy headlines. “Nowadays, the prime time slot is specified for love, marriage and divorce only,” she added.
Meanwhile, TV One’s CEO Seema Tahir Khan was of the view that viewership and ratings of those channels and programmes are high where women are portrayed as crying poor souls or vamps. “There is nothing else for them,” she said, adding that there are many issues that should be given more coverage such as minorities, child abuse, environment and cultural issues. “We cannot afford entertainment for the sake of entertainment,” said Khan.
A rights activist from Balochistan, Jaleela Haider, said that that viewers are ready to accept different content, which is why dramas like Udaari and Marvi are immensely popular. However, she said, the fact cannot be ignored that Pakistan is a capitalist country and revenue generation is the basic nature of the media industry. “The situation in media is becoming chronic,” she said. “They only report when people die and do not report on the several campaigns which are run on those attacks in Quetta.” She added that Balochistan is not just Quetta and there is much more to report about the region.
Seconding Haider’s point, Gulalai from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa added that there is no cultural policy of any province, which is why there is no social collision and integration of cultures.
By the end of the discussion, the panel summed up five points, which will be submitted to the representatives of the parliament, including sensible portrayal of women’s issues in media, adoption of a code of conduct and gender equality while reporting.
Theatre plays, music performance and awareness sessions were also carried out during the seminar by Tehrik-e-Niswan.