“A little knowledge is (a) dangerous (thing to have).” – Joyland Ban might spark a debate on the cancel-film culture in Pakistan
And perhaps, that’s a good thing? Because now, perhaps, we can streamline the process?
Since the news of Joyland being banned in Pakistan is making rounds on social media and has sparked a number of debates, we cannot help but wonder how a film can be banned when nobody in Pakistan has even watched it yet?
“A little knowledge is dangerous.”
The phrase rings true on the current scenarios as events unfold for the Ban Joyland hashtag. When we are not fully aware of the content of the film. is it fair to go by assumptions and hearsay? An array of questions come to our minds and should come to yours too. Scroll down to find questions that you should ask yourself before canceling a film you haven’t even watched.
It is true perhaps (based on western reviews of the film) that the film touches upon or deals with issues surrounding the LGBTQ debate. But, needless to say, there is a T for Transgenders in the LGBTQ or Khwaja Sira as we refer to them, that have been granted an identity by the government of Pakistan.
Now while there is much debate surrounding the acceptance of this community in our mainstream lives, allowing them to lead fulfilling lives, questioning their sexual orientation and choice of partners, this article is not about that.
But the film apparently is.
Joyland addresses the exploration of our own sexuality, as the makers have mentioned (I haven’t watched the film, so can’t say more). From hearsay, I could say that although as Pakistanis, we (pretend to) try hard as we may, and welcome marginalized communities into our midst, our social and cultural conditioning refrains from moving past the LGBTQ stamp. because we only see the LGB … Q in the equation. Hey, what happened to the T?
The problem is also two pronged. Since the West have clubbed all communities together, we assume that they are one and the same. It doesn’t matter to the West, but it does to ours. Because we struggle to recognise the T for trans in the equation but can’t, because that means we have to stand for the others too.
And that’s just food for thought. Let it rest inside your mind till you feel comfortable with the idea.
To move on, Pakistan is one of the few countries that recognizes a third gender now. To Quote The Islamic Society of North America that helps clarify the challenges of the Khwaja Sira community in orthodox cultures, the respective governments have helped reclaim some of the identity by granting them legal status.
Furthermore, the courts in Pakistan have taken first steps at granting the Khwaja Sira legal status in society
Pakistan is one of the few countries that constitutionally recognises the ‘third gender’. Hence, this community of Khwaja Siras, consists of intersex people, transgender men and also transgender women; those whose assigned sex was male but identify more as female and also of those men who believe that they were born with “a woman’s soul.”
In 2009, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that no Pakistani laws should allow for the disenfranchisement of trans folk from their basic rights. It also called upon National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) in Pakistan to issue ID cards that classified their sex as Khwaja Sira, female Khwaja Sira or Mukhannas. Following this ruling, they could exercise their right to vote and went on to take part in the politics of the country contesting for Federal and Provincial legislature on popular vote. They also have been granted the right to inherit property.
Keeping the progress in mind, we still have a long way to go.
Although a person from the community has been granted legal rights, we still abstain from fully accepting them among us. More so, we refrain from acknowledging that they have the right to lead fulfilling family lives.
I will leave it at that as no Islamic scholar am I. But I’d like to throw some questions at those who are at the helm of decision making with respect to Film Censorship rules in Pakistan (since we have a long history of banned cinematic projects) that perhaps, it’s time to rethink the process. Some questions to begin with:
1. Is the censor board not accountable for passing a film earlier and giving it the green light?
2. What did they base their decision on when they passed it and why was that decision revoked?
3. If citizens have reservations about the content of a film that has not even been screened yet, on what basis is the complaint valid? What is our measure of allowing our decisions (that have been taken by a body made for the sole purpose of screening viewable content) to be revoked arbitrarily?
4. If citizens are complaining, (and they have every right to, but it should be documented in a scientific manner so that no one can arbitrarily take on such matters alone), should there not be at least a minimum number of petitions signed to justify a revoke of the earlier decision? Reference, Greenpeace, Awaaz and several social platforms that mobilize social opinion through petitions to make their voices heard.
Not The First Time
Lastly, if the censor board decision cannot be respected or garner confidence from the citizens who seek to revoke it, then perhaps we need a new process to determine if certain films and content are acceptable to be shown in Pakistan? A selection of representatives from diverse backgrounds can come together as jury (which, is what the censor board should be doing too) to debate and converse on the content that can and cannot be shown on a case-to-case basis.
Do you have a better idea? Tell us in comments and join the conversation.
Watch the full cast and makers interview here: