Censorship sometimes fails to recognise the importance of respecting feminist voices in a society entrenched in notions of ‘honour’ and modesty
e must resist resorting to bans, and avoid making arbitrary decisions about what should or shouldn’t be prohibited, particularly with respect to art and creative expression. The elephant in the room is not the need to preserve the ‘image of Pakistan;’ it is the well-being of the individuals involved.
Bans essentially erode the limited freedoms that we can still exercise. Recently, author Sadia Khatri’s essay, What is Behind You, was censored from the book, Feminisms of Our Mothers, edited by Daanika Kamal. The essay is about faith, friendship and the bureaucracies Pakistani women have to deal with before making a choice regarding motherhood.
Censors sometimes fail to recognise the importance of respecting feminist voices in a society entrenched in notions of ‘honour’ and modesty. Sometimes there is too much of a preoccupation with the country’s image.
This stifling of creative expression diminishes the already scant space available for engaging in a discourse about literature, responsible content and the extent to which it can be leveraged to bring forth and address serious issues.
In deeply divided societies, where logical reasoning, informed discussion and coherent thought are lacking, bans become the proverbial weapons of mass destruction. They smother creative expression and stifle divergent notions that challenge the prevailing norms.
This superficially reinstates a semblance of no controversy for the nation. But does this not return us to the square one and perpetuate a disheartening, unending cycle wherein citizens, particularly women, are sacrificed for the nation’s reputation?
Bans are the opposite of what is needed in situations demanding discourse, dialogue, and debate.
In deeply divided societies, where logical reasoning, informed discussion and coherent thought are lacking, bans become the proverbial weapons of mass destruction.
Rather than resorting to censorship, the strategic imperative for a long-lasting behavioural change is the cultivation of a profound understanding of the root causes of the issues involved. Any tearing of the tapestry of society, undermining life and liberty, indicates the existence of an issue demanding immediate attention and resolution.
The problem one must address is the underlying reasons for the frequent stifling of voices struggling to put forth an opinion. It is important to devise strategies to mitigate the detrimental impacts and take measures to prevent its recurrence.
Given the unwillingness to engage in a discourse and the failure to delve into the root causes of censorship at large, bans have become a suppressive tool inhibiting the evolution of diverse perspectives. They stifle the progression of free expression. Shouldn’t we pay more attention to this shift? Perhaps it requires urgent intervention and redress.
Walking a fine line and striking a delicate balance between freedom of expression and the potential harm that certain content can inflict is what art does. What is Behind You does not undermine any value system. It sheds light on an important social disease.
Numerous books, art pieces, documentary works and films have been banned recently. Have we questioned the bans?
Should we address abortions as a social issue? Should we discuss the consequences? Should we talk about the fear surrounding those?
These are important questions?
Seeking control over what can be seen or read, speaks of a desire to restrict social and cultural expression. Where are we headed as a thinking people?
The writer is the head of content at a communications agency. She can be reached at email@example.com