By Rituparna Chatterjee
Pehredaar Piya Ki is a programme aired by Sony during the evening prime time slot when families can be reasonably expected to watch TV. It is a show about a pre-pubescent young boy who is obsessed with an adult woman twice his age and shows them in repeated, suggestive — and extremely inappropriate — romantic situations.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, protects children from “offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography”. Depicting a 10-year-old child as a stalker of an adult woman and as someone who has a ‘‘suhaag raat” contextually suggests that the woman has had sex with the child. At the very minimum, it presents the possibility as one that is somehow acceptable.
India’s Child Marriage Restraint Act is clear that minor marriage is illegal. Girls must be at least 18 and boys 21 years old to be legally allowed to marry in India. Despite this, about 29 lakh children in the age group of 10–14 years were reported married between 2001 and 2011, according to a report by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
The report, released by Supreme Court judge Justice A.K. Sikri, states that despite the decline in child marriage, particularly in the age group of 10–14 years, there are 1.1 million boys and 1.8 million girls who were reported married in this age group between 2001–2011.
“Child marriage violates the dignity of the child and is a major human rights violation,” said Justice Sikri. This astonishingly regressive show glorifies child marriage, blurs the importance of consent, tries to present stalking as ‘cute’ and undermines the hard work of generations of social reformers who sought to raise the age of marriage to protect the children of our country.
It is absolutely abhorrent that an entertainment channel should promote a concept that is violative of the dignity of children and is, moreover, against the laws of this country.
Several media organisations have written, panning the show.
Here are a few examples:
Among the objectionable scenes in the show are: The boy stalking the woman in an implied romantic manner. In the first episode, the boy is shown following the woman and taking photographs of her without her consent. In the second episode, there are crass shots and sexual innuendos in the dialogue. E.g. “He is a kid, we don’t know when he will be big enough to satisfy you.”
The show not only violates the rights of children, it also actively promotes misogyny. For example, the boy is shown controlling the actions of his adult wife, telling her what clothes and jewellery to wear, and forbidding her from drinking tea in case her complexion turns dusky. He fills sindoor in the hair parting of his adult wife, and is seen sleeping together on a decorated bed on their ‘suhaag raat’. This show disseminates ideas that are ethically, socially and legally unacceptable in a civilised society.
We draw the attention of concerned authorities to this and request them to enforce the law of the land — in letter and in spirit. We do not support restricting artistic freedom in any form. We appeal to sponsors to desist from endorsing this show and request Smriti Irani, Information and Broadcasting Minister (additional charge), to look into the content and take action against the channel if it is found to violate Indian laws that safeguard minors.
Here are the undersigned:
Kiran Manral (Author and Columnist)
Sunayana Roy (Writer)
Shakthi Vadakkepat (Tech Blogger, Disability Activist)
Sandhya Menon (Writer, Journalist)
Priya Ramani (Columnist)
Harini Calamur (Founder, Vipra)
Nandita Iyer (Nutrition Counselor, Writer)
Harish Iyer (Radio Presenter, Columnist, Professor)
Namita Bhandare (Journalist)
Shaili Chopra (Journalist and Entrepreneur)
Shwetasree Majumder (Lawyer)
Rituparna Chatterjee (Journalist)
Ruchita Dar Shah (Founder, First Moms Club)
Rituparna Chatterjee is the deputy editor at Huffington Post, India. This blog was first published on Medium and has been reproduced here with permission.
(Views expressed are personal opinions of the author.)