Women's activist filmmaking against gendered violence in Pakistan

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Date
2023-08-25
Authors
Imran, Rahat
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Routledge
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Abstract
Focusing on women's activist filmmaking practices against gendered violence in Pakistan, this chapter discusses Samar Minallah's 2003 documentary film Swara: A Bridge Over Troubled Waters, which served as a catalyst for bringing urgent national attention to the tribal practice of swara that allows giving away minor girls (even unborn ones) in forced marriages as compensation to settle feuds and avenge murders. Winner of the Perdita Huston Activist for Human Rights Award in 2007, among others, Minallah's film challenged the custom as a gendered crime against women. The 40-minute film made legislative history as the Supreme Court of Pakistan used the film as evidence to pass legislation that criminalised the practice of swara as victimisation of women. Likewise, Pakistani woman filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's two Oscar-winning documentary films Saving Face (2011), and A Girl In the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015) address the victimisation of women in acid-attacks and honour-killings, respectively. Both films renewed pressure on the government of Pakistan and policy-makers to focus on these widespread forms of violence against women and the need to enforce stricter laws and accountability. A contextual reading of the aforementioned films highlights the gendered nature of extreme forms of violence inflicted on women in the name of so-called “honour” and revenge, while gender-specific tribal customs and practices, patriarchal and gender-biased mindsets and Sharia laws of Qisas (compensation by equal punishment) and Diyat (compensation by blood money) serve to protect male perpetrators of violence and murders.
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Pakistan , Women's activist filmmaking , Gendered violence , Samar Minallah , Swara: A Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Citation
Imran, R. (2023) 'Women's activist filmmaking against gendered violence in Pakistan', in Boyle, K. and Berridge, S. (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Gender, Media and Violence. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 319-328. doi: 10.4324/9781003200871-35