Street theatre with a social message
LAHORE- The European Union Punjab access to Justice Project (EU-PA2J) has initiated a series of live street theatre performances in three major districts of Punjab – Multan, Muzaffargarh and Bahawalpur starting from 9th till 30th Dec, in an effort to promote greater understanding on Women Inheritance Rights. The concluding live act will be performed on 30th of this month in Liberty Lahore.
The play ‘Daffa 498-A’ or ‘Article 498-A’, directly addresses a specific topic from the Pakistani Penal Code (PPC) which deals with denying a woman of her inheritance rights.
The play story revolves around Chaudhry Basharat, the protagonist of the play who is a landowner and has no legal heirs. While attending a village festival he meets Kamal Din, who shares his story on the importance of following the legal process of buying land.
After enquiring about Chaudhry Basharat’s family, Kamal Din is shocked upon hearing he has no legal heirs and questions what will become of his property after his death. Kamal Din goes on to say a second marriage is advisable if his wife is unable to bear children. Chaudhry Basharat is ready to consider this option in order to secure his land and his future.
After seeking his first wife’s permission, Chaudhry Basharat contracts a second marriage through which he has a daughter. Upon hearing of the birth of a legal heir, Chaudhry Basharat’s brother, Chaudhry Mushtaq is dismayed, as he intended for all the property to be left to his children. To overcome this obstacle to his ambition Chaudhry Mushtaq arranges to secure a marriage between his son and Chaudhry Basharat’s daughter. Both children are underage. Further to the untimely death of Chaudhry Basharaat, his brother now attempts to deprive his first wife of her legal inheritance, claiming she is not entitled to it due to her not having produced any heirs.
The first wife goes to Police Station claiming Chaudhry Mushtaq intends to deprive her inheritance rights. After seeking advice the first wife understands she has two options: (a) bring the matter before the council of elders (Panchayat) (b) take legal action.
The first wife chooses to appear before the Panchayat. Chaudhry Mushtaq aims to sway the vote of the elders in his favour by demeaning her character. Before the Panchayat convenes to deliberate on the issue a policeman intervenes and imparts to the gathering that the first wife has a legal claim to the land. Supported by the law she receives her inheritance share. In addition to creating awareness on legal topics, the play also provides information about District Legal Empowerment Committees which provide free legal assistance to needy and vulnerable litigants.
Through this classic theatre format, EU-PA2J is engaging with the affectees to create awareness whilst providing information about redressal avenues.
Team Leader of the Project, John Lipton said, “Empowering the needy and vulnerable of Punjab may not be achieved unless people are educated in claiming their fundamental rights. Through initiatives such as circle theatre, members of the ordinary public may engage in meaningful debates as they cast a fresh glance at standing practices and decide whether their interpretation meets the needs of today’s society,” he said.