Over the last few days, a clip from Laapata, a drama currently on air on Hum TV, has been making rounds on social media. In the particular scene, which has gone viral, Falak, played by Sarah Khan slaps her husband back. During an argument Daniyal, played by Gohar Rasheed, accuses Falak of betraying his trust by keeping photo of her childhood sweetheart, Shams in her diary. When Falak tries to deny the allegations, he slaps her. If you replace the names, such scenes can be found in 80 percent of Pakistani dramas.
I will run out of fingers if I start counting the number of dramas which include scenes of husbands slapping their wives to conclude the argument, but the shocking point in Laapata was when Falak slaps her husband back. This has led to a polarized discussion on the topic. Some viewers believe that for far too long women have been portrayed as passive recipients of violence. A man would slap a woman in a drama and she either stays silent, or cries over it but never hits back. They think it was a much-needed break from traditional portrayals of women as weak beings, who will silently bear assault from men in their family.
On the other hand, many people have still not recovered from the shock. They believe that it is nothing less than a sign of the End of Times. How can a wife slap her majazi khuda (worldly god)? What’s next? Women asking for basic rights in Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Can we allow this to happen? In which direction is this country headed? They believe that women should not be encouraged to hit their husbands back because men are physically stronger than women and if all couples engage in physical fights at home, then husbands will have an upper hand. Some believe that hell hath no fury like a Pakistani man with a hurt ego. The anger of men is so destructive and unexpected that no woman should dare to confront them, because it will lead to dire consequences.
Whether a woman hitting her husband is empowering or an early warning of doomsday will depend on your values and beliefs. But one thing which is beyond argument is that violence is not the answer. Recently, the Pakistani dramas have started showing violence to the extent that it has started appearing normal. There was a time when once in a blue moon, a character will slap another in the drama, and it would make news for a while. In 2019, when Saveera Nadeem slapped Ayeza Khan in Meray Pass Tum Ho, it created quite a stir. But in the last two weeks in at least three dramas women have slapped women, men have slapped women, women have slapped men and none of them were talked about.
What is alarming is that dramas have started portraying that no one can hold an argument without throwing a slap on the other person’s face.
In Hum Kahan Kay Sachay Thay, currently on air on Hum TV, Mashal asks Mehreen if she has met Aswad, and Mehreen replies, “go ask him that,” and out of nowhere, Mashal slaps Mehreen across the face. Both girls are cousins and enrolled in a university. Similarly, in Mohabbat Daagh Ki Surat, currently on air on Geo, Shijrat is staying with her Mamu’s (maternal uncle) family. During a small argument between Shijrat and her Mamu’s eldest son, Afaaq, out of nowhere, Afaaq slaps Shijrat in front of his wife and sister. In Fitoor, Dilnasheen played by Hiba Bukhari is slapped by her mother and husband at different instances in the drama.
Taapsee Pannu, a young actor of Bollywood recently acted in movie, Thappad. Taapsee reevaluates her marriage after her husband slaps her at a house party. The movie sheds light on many facets of intimate partner violence and how our social or legal codes view women, who want to confront a violent husband, but one dialogue, which stayed with me, was
“Just a slap,
Per Nahin Maar Sakta
Bus itni si baat hai”
Normalisation of violence is worrisome because we as a society are already quite obsessed with violence as a tool to control. Corporal punishment is still practiced in schools and seminaries, violence against women is one of the highest in the world, and so much of violence still goes unreported or not even considered violence. Societies don’t change overnight, but we should start with one drama without an unnecessary slap.