The drama serial Hadsa, which aired on Geo TV, has been banned by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) after facing severe backlash from the public and the media. The drama was accused of exploiting the real-life story of a woman who was gang-raped by two men on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway in September 2020, an incident that sparked nationwide outrage and protests.
The Survivor’s Ordeal
The motorway rape survivor, whose identity has been kept confidential, was travelling with her two children when her car ran out of fuel on the deserted road. She called the motorway police for help, but they did not respond. While she was waiting for her relative to arrive, two men broke into her car, robbed her, and raped her in front of her children.
The survivor reported the incident to the police and underwent a medical examination. She also identified the two rapists, Abid Malhi and Shafqat Ali Bagga, who were later arrested and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in March 2021.
However, the survivor’s ordeal did not end there. She had to face victim-blaming comments from the Lahore police chief Umer Sheikh, who questioned why she was travelling alone at night and why she did not choose a safer route. She also had to deal with the trauma of reliving the incident through the drama Hadsa, which allegedly used her personal details without her consent.
The Drama’s Controversy
Hadsa, which starred Hadiqa Kiani as the rape survivor Taskeen, was written by Zanjabeel Asim Shah and produced by Shazia Wajahat and Wajahat Rauf. The drama claimed to be a fictional story that aimed to raise awareness about sexual violence against women. However, many viewers and critics pointed out the similarities between the drama and the motorway incident, such as the location, the time, the number of children, and even the names of the children’s friends.
The drama’s controversy came to light when journalist Fereeha Idrees shared a distressing conversation with the motorway rape survivor on X. The survivor told her that she felt violated and harassed by the drama, which triggered her trauma and exposed her private life to the public. She said that no one asked for her permission or informed her about the drama. She also said that she received calls from people who recognized her story from the drama.
The survivor’s lawyer, Barrister Muhammad Ahmad Pansota, also spoke to the media and confirmed that his client was deeply hurt by the drama. He said that the drama was an exact copy of what happened to her and that it violated her right to privacy. He said that television channels are not allowed to produce reenactments of real incidents without the consent of the survivors. He also said that he would take legal action against the makers of Hadsa if they did not stop airing it.
The Ban and The Demands
Following the outcry from the public and the media, PEMRA issued a notice to Geo TV on August 28, 2021, directing it to stop airing Hadsa immediately. PEMRA said that the drama was in violation of its code of conduct and that it had received numerous complaints from viewers and civil society organizations.
The ban on Hadsa was welcomed by many people who supported the motorway rape survivor and demanded justice and reform for all victims of sexual violence in Pakistan. The organizers of a nationwide protest on September 12, 2020, called for several measures to improve the situation of women’s rights in Pakistan, such as:
- Firing the Lahore police chief for his insensitive remarks
- Changing the law to criminalize all forms of sexual violence
- Reforming the police system to increase accountability and transparency
- Training police, prosecutors, and judges in handling sexual violence cases
- Providing protection, services, and legal assistance for survivors
- Ending virginity examinations and other abusive practices
- Improving safety of public spaces without restricting women’s mobility
The government of Pakistan should take these demands seriously and take concrete steps to prevent and punish sexual violence against women and girls. Pakistan has ratified several international human rights treaties that oblige it to protect women’s rights, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention against Torture (CAT). Pakistan should also implement its own laws and policies that aim to combat sexual violence, such as the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act 2006 and the National Action Plan on Human Rights 2016.
Sexual violence is a grave violation of human dignity and a threat to social justice. It cannot be tolerated or ignored in any civilized society. The motorway rape survivor and all other survivors deserve respect, support, and justice. They also deserve to have their stories told with their consent and without exploitation.
What are your thoughts on the motorway incident and the drama Hadsa? Do you think the ban was justified? Do you think the government is doing enough to protect women’s rights in Pakistan? Share your views in the comments section below.