Censorship remains a barrier to showcasing working women issues

KARACHI: The challenges facing Pakistani women, particularly those who fall into the category of `working women`, are hardly given the deserved attention and coverage by the entertainment industry in the country. It is rather discouraged to highlight the issues and struggles they face because it is deemed `inappropriate` by society.

It is also believed that a woman is not capable and worthy of having an opinion or an involvement in social and political issues. She should remain inside her house and look after its affairs.

`And when you subvert something like this, it`s not that easy. It is extremely challenging,` said screenwriter Bee Gul in an online discussion organised by the Uks Digital Studio, where she was speaking about the challenges she faced in writing and launching the drama series Working Women.

Written by Ms Gul, directed by Yasra Rizvi and produced by Kashif Nisar, the series began airing in Sept, 2023 on Green TV Entertainment. It is about a group ofwomen who live in a house and earn their own living without the help of a man. It reflects the problems and challenges such women face in the contemporary Pakistani society.

Discussing the portrayal of women in the Pakistani entertainment industry, she said it was most often based on discrimination and for the past many years it had been systematically endorsed that women should remain inside their houses and focus on resolving the issues there.

It is also believed, she added, that a woman is not capable and worthy of having any opinion or involvement in social and political issues.

The term working women was not an appropriate one as it reflected that those who looked after their households were doing nothing, she said.

Host of the discussion, Shaista Yasmeen, said issues like these were not covered on other entertainment channels in Pakistan, to which Ms Gul agreed and said that it was always discouraged that these sort of stories were developed and produced.

Talking about the challenges she and her team faced in bringing the drama on air, she said that they faceda lot of censorship and other problems.

`We were told that even the first scene is very bold. We can`t show this,` she said, adding that beside this, many important scenes from the episodes were also cut.

`At one point, we even thought that it would be banned,` she said.

Even the days and dates were changed, which affected the show`s viewership, she shared.

She said gender-based discrimination was also there. When a girl was shown smoking a cigarette in a scene, objections were raised and the scenes were cut but when a man was shown smoking it was considered normal.

About the response and reaction that they received, she said people gave both negative and positive feedback and reviews. They faced harsh criticism online and even received threats, the harshest criticism being that the drama was promoting unlawful sex or adultery.

And many people, like bloggers or reviewers who usually talked about movies and dramas, mostly avoided comments on it, whether negative or positive, just because they didn`t want to endorse the kind of charac-ters that were shown.

But people also appreciated them very much, she said.

They particularly received many positive reviews from India and Canada.

Another participant, Farhat Parveen, commented that it was important to keep such initiatives going and there should be a sequel to this drama. To this, Ms Gul said she didn`t believe that such a sequel would be allowed, irrespective of however much they wanted. But she said there were many more stories that needed to be told, and hoped that writers would take lead from here and work on highlighting such issues.

About how the concept of the story of the serial came to her mind, Ms Gul said Mr Nisar and Ms Rizvi had this idea in mind and wanted to produce something about working women in the country. And then they approached her and she decided to give it a go, and developed the characters and story of the show.

And it was decided, she added, that women from different backgrounds and ethnicities should be included in it to better represent the issues they faced in society.

Acknowledgement: Published by Daily Dawn on 6 Jan 2024

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