Media is an extremely powerful tool to influence behavior or attitudes; it can either make or break beliefs.
However, in Pakistan there has always been a stigma attached to discussing social issues such as sexual abuse, harassment, child marriage and honor killing.
Most of us are aware of its prevalence in the society, but refuse to discuss it openly regardless. People prefer to remain oblivious to these social issues, and their victims are simply told to keep quiet about the matter.
According to a survey conducted in 2016, at least 11 children became victims of sexual abuse everyday while almost 100 were murdered after sexual assault.
Of the total, around 78 per cent of cases were registered with the police, 32 per cent were unregistered, whereas police refused to register an FIR for 142 cases.
In 2015, nearly 1,100 women were killed in the name of honor by their family members.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) up to three per cent of girls are married in Pakistan before the age of 15 years and 21 percent are married before they turn 18.
Child marriage tends to occur in the country’s most vulnerable communities, and has devastating consequences for both the genders.
Children are deprived of their childhood as their education is abandoned, and girls take on housework while boys struggle to provide for families they are too young to have.
In the age when they should play and live a care-free life, they are given responsibilities they cannot fulfill.
Children married at an early age become parents too soon, and girls face serious health risks, including death, due to early pregnancy.
These facts and figures show the dire need to create awareness about these issues, and educate people of its consequences on the overall society.
Media is a medium that can create a huge impact in spreading awareness about these issues, and recently, initiatives have been taken to highlight these issues openly despite the opposition from some segments of the audience.
Television has a broad range of audience and it is great to see that it is being used so effectively to convey the impact of these social issues to our society.
The people of our country need to come out of their conservative mindset speak up and take a stand against such issues.
Unfortunately, people are still stuck in their conservative mind-set and choose to live in their own bubble, as they refuse to address these problems openly.
The family members of a rape victim are unwilling to file a complaint against the rapist due to the fear that their reputation will be tarnished.
It is, however, refreshing to see these issues addressed in our local dramas nowadays.
There are a number of dramas that addressed issues like child abuse, marital rape, child marriage and honor killing, and how this affects the minds of the victims and impact their future.
TV Channels are now being open-minded about showing these issues in dramas, and movies.
The hit show “Muqabil” addressed the social issue of child abuse, “Khuda Mera Bhi Hai” openly addressed the taboo social issue of transgender community, ChupRaho addressed the social issue of sexual abuse, and how society forces the victim to stay quiet about the matter.
Also, the recent on-going show “Aisi Hai Tanhai” is also raising awareness about cyber-crime and its consequences.
The emotional, physical and psychological effects on these victims are portrayed realistically in these dramas, and I believe this can serve as a strong medium to change people’s beliefs and perception, and also give them the motivation to inform and educate their children about these social evils.
I do believe the portrayal in dramas of such issues is glorified to some extent for the sake of entertainment, but I also feel that it is a good start towards creating a more open-minded and liberal society who have the courage to acknowledge and address these issues.