Mahira Khan starrer Verna by Shoaib Mansoor, after being approved by Sindh and Punjab censor boards has been banned by the Islamabad Censor Board. The film was due to be released on November 17 but is now pending a full body review to be able to be released in cinemas across Pakistan. Islamabad Censor Board has listed a couple of reasons why the body deems it inappropriate for audiences in Pakistan.
The reasons for this ban are irrational to say the least and antithetic to the purpose of art at worst. The first is that it deals very boldly with the topic of rape in the country. The second reason is that the accused in the film, or rather the rapist, is the son of the Prime Minister.
The reason for both decisions by the filmmakers is intended to display the power dynamics at play as well, which make it difficult for victims of get justice.
Both the reasons seem very petty considering that the issue of rape is very rampant in Pakistan. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an incident of rape occurs every two hours and an innocent victim is gang-raped every four to eight days. It must be addressed along with the power dynamics which prevent justice.
The drama Udaari, discussing child abuse, was also object to in the same manner. Same was the case with the documentary about Lal Masjid, called Among the Believers. We always tend to shy away from the camera portraying the evils in the society.
These social issues are certainly taboo and controversial, which is why discussion on these subjects is absent in the society. However, that does not mean that bold issues should not be dealt with because of lack of discourse. Art has always been the medium which helps stretch boundaries of individuals. If you look at Zia’s dictatorial regime, art was the medium used to convey sentiments of resistance – art cannot be snubbed because it adds to the progress of the society.