Popular TV series faces court for ‘wrong portrayal’ of Pakistani women


A Pakistani court has summoned the producers of a popular TV series after a petition was filed demanding that they apologise for their portrayal of women as “greedy, selfish and non-professional”.

Lawyer Sana Saleem said the television series Meray Paas Tum Ho (I Have You) was “ridiculing a woman who makes the same decision as every other man in society,” when she filed the petition at the Sindh high court last month

The court has summoned the producer, Humayun Saeed, who also plays the lead role, to appear on Thursday along with the lawyers of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar has said if the bench finds that the show features immoral discourse, action will be taken against the producers.

The series followed the story of a married couple whose relationship falls apart when the woman had an affair with a wealthy man. Pakistani television dramas routinely show women forgiving cheating husbands, but this series presented a fresh question: should a man forgive his unfaithful wife?

The show polarised the country. Women turned to Facebook and Twitter to call out the show and the writer, Khalilurur Rehman Qamar, for his misogynistic storytelling.

The 23 episodes ran from August 2019 to January this year becoming the most watched TV show in Pakistan. The finale was watched by 80 million viewers and was screened in cinemas across the country, raking in a record-breaking 38 million rupees (£414,231) on the first day in ticket sales.

The case is significant. Although it is not uncommon in Pakistan for people to ask the courts to mediate in this way, it is unusual for the petitioner to demand justice for women. A separate petition to stop the airing of the final episode of the show was thrown out last month.

Sana Saleem said: “The show had a huge impact and hurt women. The courts have a duty to correct something which is negatively affecting society.”

In her petition, she also objects to the storylines of an unmarried couple living together and a six-year-old child playing Cupid to set up his father and schoolteacher.

However, lawyer Reema Omer said prohibiting content, regardless of its “offensive” nature, is an anathema to the freedom of expression. “It is not the business of the state to decide what people should and should not watch on television unless the content violates certain clearly defined limitations set by law, such as incitement to violence, for example.”

Omer added that critiquing the show in the media was a “far more potent way” to respond to sexism than censorship and court directions to make the actors apologise.

Salman Iqbal, the founder and CEO of ARY Digital, defended the show. “Pakistani dramas for years have shown men abusing and cheating on women, yet no petitions were filed by men against such content. So why now?

“If Tom kills Jerry in the cartoon, should we feel compelled to launch a campaign for animal rights? No, we should just enjoy it. [We need to] forget about the nitty-gritty for a while and experiment to see what the audience responds to. It’s fiction and it’s fun.” (Source: The Guardian)