Episode 5 of Ruswai aired last night and showed us how one tragedy can alter the behavior of everyone around you. Sameera (played by Sana Javed) got back home after a dreadful night and it was evident that she has been a victim of sexual abuse; with visible wounds on her face, hands and neck apart from torn clothes. Everyone in her family including her mother Seemi Raheel, sister Rohina (Natalia Awais) and brother Hamza (Osama Tahir) brilliantly portrayed the emotional trauma they were going through, but did Ruswai’s narrative tell anything about how to deal with an assault survivor? Certainly not yet!
The episode aptly depicted how as an aftermath of a heinous crime like assault, relationships change and those who are closest to the victims, feel ashamed of them. Sameera’s family was in pain and they didn’t know how to deal with her. However, her husband Salman (Mikaal Zulfiqar) didn’t even show up to comfort her. Ruswai repeated same old narrative about an unreliable husband, a cunning mother-in-law and an ashamed father. Amidst all this fiasco, it was good to see that at least Sameera’s mother stood by her like a rock and questioned his husband for abandoning her daughter in the face of adversity.
In a stream of disappointments, the biggest blow was how Sameera’s assault remained untreated the whole day. Rohina called one of Sameera’s doctor friend, Madiha, and she kept giving her injections to keep her unconscious. While portraying such sensitive subjects like rape and assault in today’s day and age, it is imperative to educate the masses about how to handle cases of rape survivors. They showed that not only her family, but a qualified doctor advised to take Sameera to a hospital the next morning while Sameera screamed and wailed. In one dialogue her mother says, ‘Tum ne iski halat nahi dekhi, isko kese hospital lay jayen? [Haven’t you seen her condition, how can we take her to the hospital?]’ We would like to inform the writer that people are only taken to the hospital when they are in bad conditions.
Ruswai clearly lost an opportunity to inform the masses how a medical test is absolutely necessary after an assault and how gathering evidence is important for a case in the longer run. Earlier we saw that Sameera’s father (Mohammed Ahmed) wasn’t willing to report her kidnap and this again reiterated that her family is so embarrassed that they didn’t get her examined at the right time. If not anything, they could have showed a few blood tests, forensic exam or preservation of her clothes to hint at possible measures taken to inform the audience about sexual abuse or assault. We hope that we get to see any flashbacks in the upcoming episodes where Sameera is actually taken to a hospital and properly treated and examined.
In the promo of the next episode, we saw that Sameera clarified to Salman that all her medical reports are fine, but he replied ‘Tum ek medical case nahi theen, ezzat theen hamari [you weren’t a medical case, you were our honor]’. That’s basically the problem with Ruswai as well, as it seems to address the matters of societal behaviors and victim shaming in a clichéd manner rather than informing the masses about handling them responsibly.
*Cover image credit: Abdullah Haris