The word ‘rape’ rings a thousand bells when it is uttered in Pakistan and we all have our definitions regarding it; our own conceptualization of the ‘victim’ and the ‘perpetrator’. However, the most infamous outlook is placing the blame on the victim. We can’t seem to rid ourselves of the detest we harbor for the victim of such a heinous atrocity, and this mindset has spread through society like an epidemic.
Interestingly enough, another concept has arisen recently: this phenomenon takes the shape of not only blaming the victim but victim shaming as well. Why are they shamed, you ask? For their inability to be the bigger person and forgive their rapists. Baffling, is it not?
This particular aspect of rape culture was recently depicted in a TV serial titled ‘Bay Khudi‘. For those of you who have not seen this mind-boggling serial, the following is a quick summary.
The show revolves around a young, girl who wishes to marry a friend from college. Her elder cousin, however, has had an eye on her since childhood. In a fit of jealous outrage, the elder cousin rapes his ‘sister-like’ cousin. Plagued by the taboo of being unclean, the young girl consequently faces rejection by her college friend.
Who is her ultimate saviour, you ask?
In an unforeseeable turn of events, she is married off to the very cousin responsible for assaulting her. Eventually, they have a baby girl named Maryam. Most of the story line revolves around the guilt of the rapist as he struggles to keep his crime a secret. The drama concludes with the rapist’s death upon the daughter’s refusal to forgive her father for ruining her mother’s life.
The story apparently serves as a lesson to the perpetrator. The aim was to show how a ‘small mistake’ can lead to a life of endless guilt and misery. However, the Pakistani audience’s interpretation of the drama highlights an alarming fascination with rape culture in Pakistan.
A majority of responses to the daughters’ character came forth as such:
It is horrid to think that most people ostracised the rape victim and her daughter for not forgiving the perpetrator. Is someone’s guilt enough to wash away their crime? ‘Bay Khudi‘, in it’s attempt to humanize the rapist ridicules the laws regarding rape. Moreover, the response by the public warrants questioning the development and portrayal of rape culture in our society.
Other than merely blaming the rape victim, rape culture itself is carefully curated in Pakistan. It is deemed necessary that young girls from ‘respectable’ families often be protected from the external male gaze. Moreover, they are encouraged to rely on their ‘brotherly’ cousins and ‘fatherly’ uncles to move around safely in society
Due to this cultural conditioning, young girls are tied in an endless fascination with her male relatives; they are led to believe that no matter what, they will be their saviors. Consequently, their personal fairytales revolve around the prominent male presence in their life. This is perhaps why a baffling number of familial sexual assault and rape cases are silenced. It is also probable that most girls are unaware that their privacy is being violated. Unfortunately, this mindset is only strengthened by the irresponsible role played by the media. Add this to an immature viewership and you have the perfect breeding ground for a thriving rape culture.
‘Bay Khudi‘ is not the first instance where rape culture is on shameless display. Many TV dramas showcase and propagate this ugly side family, the so-called ‘familial romance’. In these dramas, the girl is always shown as a subdued individual while her ‘masculine cousin’ is often portrayed as the protector. Are these scenes intended to depict an ideal that young girls should strive towards?
The propagation of this ideal may be deemed as ‘rape culture’. We foster this culture in our very homes and our media. The pervasiveness naturalizes it and makes it easier for the rapist to evade the legal implications of rape.
It is important to bring forth such cases, instead of keeping them hushed to ‘protect the families name from being tainted’. It is equally important to let the legal system take its course. If such dramas are to be the appreciated norm over the likes of ‘Udaari’ (a program about familial child abuse), then rape culture will only gain more momentum. Therefore, if girls are not conditioned to be their own saviors, there is no way out of this spiral of detrimental societal indoctrination.