Cases of sexual abuse are making the news right, left and center and getting close to no attention from the government, let alone officials of the state.
Four policemen were recently arrested for allegedly raping a 22 year-old woman in Rawalpindi on Saturday. The victim was forced into a car before taking turns, subjecting her to rape.
Sexual Abuse Is On The Rise In Pakistan
Sahil, an NGO working on child protection, in their annual 2018 report claims 12 children face some sort of abuse in Pakistan every day. With the obvious gender divide, females facing sexual abuse more than males. Unlike older times this brutal reality no longer serves as an anecdote rather it fleshes itself out as routine happening.
Art for centuries has been used as a form of resistance. Even if Pakistan actively tries to dissociate art from society, it still finds its way.
Such was also the case with one of NAPA’s recent plays that chronicled the sad tale of sexual abuse. Yet another masterpiece delivered by Fawad Khan, an alumina and a faculty member of NAPA, after the sweeping success of “chup”. The audience is kept in the “dark” literally and metaphorically during his latest play, “Lights Out”.
What Is “Lights Out” About?
The play revolves around Laila and Rahat, a married couple arguing about certain audible “screams”. Since these screams have been persistent for quite a while, Laila insists on calling the police, while Rahat keeps beating about the bush and refuses to take any substantial action. Laila, whilst scared, is also at the same time disgusted. She does a brilliant job keeping the audience on the edge of their seats keen to know the origins of the on-going screams.
As the play progresses, Danish, Nena and Sikandar join the couple on stage. Throughout the hour long play Danish and Rahat try to figure out the kind of screams they are. Time and again we see them arguing, categorizing, belittling these audibly feminine screams. Danish insists on this being a result of a religious ritual, while Rahat is of the belief the women going through this might even be enjoying this. Rahat at the end even hints that “such women” deserve such treatment in an attempt to belittle sex workers.
Tension thickens in the air as the audience gets to know that both, Rahat and Danish know full well what is going on since, they are first hand eye witnesses. Not so surprisingly, Danish had decided to come over the minute Rahat informs him of such a happening in his neighborhood. Nena, then remains our only ray of hope, who is also the first person to use the word “rape” in the play.
The cast – Kiran Siddiqui as Laila, Samhan Ghazi as Rahat, Meesam Naqvi as Sikandar, Kulsoom Aftab as Nena Farhan Alam as Danish – outdoes itself it terms of expressions and deliver-ability. Kudos to the director who brilliantly portrays the insensitivity of such a sensitive issue.
Drawing laughs and giggles, here and there, it would be a shame to say that the ending was nothing short of cliffhanger-cum-thought provoking displeasure.
It is quite frankly, very refreshing to see theater in Pakistan highlighting issues pertaining to women and making the audience uncomfortable. It is, if not abundantly, helping in initiating dialogue which is a start.
The play is an Urdu adaption of Manjula Padmanabhan’s Lights Out, based on an eye witness account of the incident that took place in Santa Cruz, Mumbai in 1982.