By now almost everyone would be aware of the HUM TV drama Udaari that became an instant sensation. A drama that captivated audiences not because it had an all-star cast, Ahsan Khan, Urwa Hocane, Bushra Ansari and Farhan Saeed to name a few, but instead becoming a fan favorite due to its sensitive yet critical story revolving around the issue of child abuse – among other things. It was a drama that resonated strongly with people who either themselves have been the victim of abuse or feel strongly about such issues. All in all, Udaari cast the much needed light on the unfortunately taboo-ed aspects of Pakistani society. It gave a powerful message about child abuse and reminded everyone to drop the stigmatization of rape victims, for they are survivors and are just as entitled to live their lives as any of us. But just recently at the 2017 HUM Awards, a member of the Pakistani film industry, Yasir Hussain – best known for his performance in Karachi Se Lahore – in an awfully misdirected attempt to get the audience laughing joked about child abuse .

While Ahsan Khan had won the award for best actor in a negative role for his performance as Paa Imtiaz on Udaari, Yasir Hussain made a gravely problematic remark about child molestation. He said something along the lines of “inhon ne itna uccha portray kiya hai child molester ko ke mera dil kerta hai mein bhi child ban jaoun” in “good humour”. It was not something that’s even cringe worthy – it’s downright deplorable. Award shows have never been free from the hosts uttering offensive or inappropriate comments, but to play light of a pressing problem globally to this extent has got to be an all-time low.

Naturally the internet had a field day after this inappropriate joke was articulated on stage. Although Yasir Hussain was forced to render an apology following the severe backlash, but even his apology can at best be described as a feeble attempt to justify his actions.  In an Instagram post, he claimed that he is against child abuse and that his joke has been taken out of context and the joke was thereby not intended in the way it has been perceived. But ironically, the problem is still there. A pathetic attempt at an apology would perhaps have gone better had he acknowledged that he was not even supposed to treat the grave issue of child molestation as a subject matter for a joke and that too at an Award show.

Interestingly, what’s even more troubling is that his remark on such a grave issue, not only in Pakistan but also worldwide, has not exactly received its due share of attention when compared to other things. In a country where we poke fun at instances meant to foster goodwill between countries, there seems to be very little outcry over his remarks. For instance the recent Shan Food ad has come under serious public scrutiny and has been the subject of many memes. Because of what? For showing a Chinese woman trying to learn Pakistani cuisine in attempt to overcome the cultural barrier and hence bringing people together via food? And it’s apparently funny because one can see the “CPEC effect” in such ads. The fact that many among us will go to great lengths to ridicule an ad that features people from different countries, different backgrounds, different walks of life, overcoming their linguistic and cultural barrier by enjoying food, is greatly problematic in itself. But if an ad like this could take the center stage when it comes to mass attention, I personally believe we’d be better off by focusing on much bigger matters especially when people to this day trivialize societal problems like child abuse and molestation.

A 2016 report ‘Cruel Numbers 2016’ stated that out of 4,139 reported cases of child sexual abuse in Pakistan, 74% pertained to rural areas. And that’s just the documented ones. In a country where cases like Kasur are only the tip of the iceberg, it would be wise for all of us to not make light of such a sensitive and pervasive issue and instead do our bit in spreading awareness on this, reporting any such instances and supporting the ones who have gone through this terrible ordeal.