Recently at a high profile awards show, actor Ahsan Khan won an award for his portrayal of a child molester in the show Udaari. The fact that a Pakistani TV show shed light on the issue of child sexual abuse was a new precedent for Pakistan’s entertainment industry and a move that was applauded.
However, all the awareness that Udari tried to raise was shattered when the host of the night, Yasir Hussain made a highly crass and insensitive comment after Ahsan’s win. Many called it a crass joke but anyone with an ounce of common sense in them knows that the words Yasir uttered cannot be called a joke.
Ahsan portrayed the child abuser in Udaari and Yasir said, “Itna khoobsurat child molester, kaash mei bhi bacha hota.”
(“Such a beautiful child molester, I wish I was a child too.”)
Host Yasir Hussain after Ahsan Khan wins award fr Udaari: "Aisa khoobsurat child molester; kash mein bhi bacha hota"
— Hassan Choudary (@hassanchoudary) April 29, 2017
The audience laughed. They LAUGHED. The crème da la crème of Pakistan that sat in the audience laughed when Yasir uttered these comments.
In a country where the victims of the Kasur scandal have had no justice, where child abuse is extremely prevalent no matter what strata of society you belong to, the fact that Yasir used it as a punchline begs the question why he ever thought to say these words.
Of course, social media exploded with anger and called him out.
— M. Jibran Nasir (@MJibranNasir) April 30, 2017
— 物の哀れ (@flyingninja7) April 30, 2017
— eek (@haloperidolol) April 30, 2017
And he soon used his social media platforms to issue an apology, saying it was something that just slipped out.
— Furqan T. Siddiqui (@furqantsiddiqui) April 30, 2017
However, I refuse to buy into this apology. What frame of mind does someone have to be in to even think that it was something appropriate to say? How does something like this just ‘slip out’?
Pakistan has seen a 10 percent increase in child sexual abuse. This is a society where the victims are unable to speak up because as children we have never gone through sex education. Culture and religious sensitivities have created an environment that does not allow us to discuss this issue.
So in a highly religious society like ours where Udaari set a precedent by discussing the issue in detail and prompting dialogue, it took one moment for Yasir to invalidate everything they had done.
Of course it is not the first time this has happened. Inappropriate comments in the name of humour have been used for years. Last year, at the same event, the host had made fun of dwarfism. Just like this year, the audience had laughed along.
Whenever we as a society sees progress, something like this sets us back. We continue to regress, using disability and abuse as jokes and punchlines.