Few days back, I tuned in a Pakistani drama serial, in the hopes of finding something entertaining to watch; as much sense it could do to me, this serial was depicting the story of a woman being abandoned by the husband, who suspected her of extramarital affairs. After being denied any help from her parents, the girl had to live with her cruel in-laws, who often abused her both verbally and physically.

I watched the complete episode and realised that all female characters were either suppressed housewives, or young lassies aspiring to get married soon, to a non-resident Pakistani preferably. While I expect nothing better from Pakistani serials, this one truly disgusted me. According to the weekly TRP ratings, this serial garners a huge audience, who find the content ‘entertaining’ and relatable. This serial isn’t only entertaining, but it is teaching young girls what kind of groom they should dream of. It is teaching our sisters, daughters and mothers to stay quiet if their male counterparts are abusive. Of course, that is the only honourable way of living. If a woman will ever voice against her husband, she will find herself cast out from our honourable society. This is the reason when women like Ayesha Gulalai or for that matter Reham Khan disclose the harassment faced in professional or personal life, they find themselves and their families getting scrutinised by the entire nation, because, of course, speaking up against an abusive man is truly a sin.

With media reaching everywhere, these serials do have an opportunity to empower women. Instead they are sending them back to the stone ages. While doing a field research on domestic violence in Pakistan, I interviewed at least 50 victims of domestic violence; most of whom didn’t speak up against their husbands. One of the eminent reasons for not speaking up was the fear of tarnishing family honour. One victim quoted, “Dekhen, beti baap ke ghar per hi achi lagti hai.” This statement left me in outrage and as much as I tried to convince her, she came up with more arguments in favour of her ‘loving’ husband. Even though women’s rights activists are working tirelessly to eradicate this concept of “Izzat”, the consequences are not very effective. Thanks to the obedient wife, who appears on our television screens on Prime Time.

What’s surprising here is the fact that a lot of actresses do identify themselves as feminist. I wonder where the feminism goes when they choose to play the character of a physically tormented wife. One such feminist actress when asked about how her take on women's rights and her television roles contradict with each other, innocently exclaimed, “I will do whatever role comes up to me. My role choice and ideological beliefs are two different things. I will do a role which challenges my ideas and ideology.” This statement left me baffled because at the age of 30 after a lifetime of experiences if you decide to idealise something, you clearly know that it is something right for you. I don’t understand why would anyone stand up against their own ideology? Let’s say, you’re a lifelong learner and want to challenge yourself, even after that, you, as media personalities do have some responsibility to educate the masses, who idealise you. When your decisions have a probability of affecting people’s life, it shouldn’t be something which serves your interest only!

While I clearly have no respect for serials objectifying and demeaning women, I do believe that TV serials do affect the thinking of people to a larger extent. Keeping the current status of women in this country, sadly, the content isn’t as inspiring as it should be. Through this I would like to urge everyone, from writers to the cameraman, to focus more on creating strong, independent and confident women characters because we don’t want bechari aurat anymore.