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Take This Off the TV!

I've noticed a disturbing trend on television here in India recently.

I don't 'watch' television as such.  But my family members do.  As I walk in and out of the drawing room, serving dinner to my family, I see the television serials they view.  I can't help it actually.  I've even become familiar with some of the storylines.

I saw a scene the other day in a serial 'Balika Vadhu' which horrified me.  A young mother is told that her son will never walk again.  Her parents, parents-in-law and husband are present.  Horrified, she goes into denial and starts bothering her wheelchair-bound child. 'Come on, get up, you can walk,' she says, as everyone looks on, aghast.  What does her husband do?  He slaps her in the face!

What does a woman in her position require?  Kindness and possibly someone to be a little firm and tell her to pull herself together.  No situation is devoid of hope and there are, after all, many possibilities for a great life for the child.  She does not need to be beaten and humiliated in front of everyone. The disturbing thing about this scene is that the husband is not some unlettered brute.  He is usually shown as  an educated man and a very good husband.  This scene, in my opinion, is totally out of line.

In another television serial 'Na Aana Is Des Laado', I was horrifed to see a scene recently where a woman was  flogged in front of  her whole village as a punishment for 'hiding' a daughter for twenty years.  This is a serial which focuses on the social evil of female infanticide.  In the story, a mother disguised her  baby daughter as the child of one of her maidservants as she feared her husband's family would kill the child because she was a girl.  As the girl grew up, her true identity had to be revealed as her future, i.e. her marriage had to be arranged.  The husband's family, enraged at the extra expense to the family (a daughter's marriage is expensive in traditional communities) hauled the mother before the village council, who ordered the punishment.   Every second of the gruesome scene was shown as the uncomplaining woman was beaten to a bloody mass.  The television channel justified the violence on the grounds that the serial highlights the hapless plight of village women in north India. I don't think that this is a good way to bring about social change.

In one more serial, 'Bhagyavidaata', I saw a woman being beaten on the head with a shoe by her husband and  thrown out of the family home.  To my surprise, my children were delighted. When I asked them why, they replied that this woman was very evil and had caused a lot of trouble in her family.  Now her schemes had been discovered and her husband had given her what she 'deserved'.  Now, the woman may or may not have been evil, but this type of retribution is not at all acceptable for any person, male or female, in my opinion. If her husband didn't like her anymore, whatever the reason, there are other, more civilized ways of dealing with such situations.

Beating women seems to be routine on Indian television. I am not at all happy at the idea of my children seeing this.  The idea that's coming across is that it's acceptable to beat a woman as long as she 'deserves' it.  But who is to decide what sort of behaviour is 'deserving' or not?


  1. You won't get an argument from me about whether it's appropriate or not but I know a few people who have that same response that your children did. "She deserved it." Only the one being slapped or rough-handled in this case isn't an adult, but a child. We call it spanking. I believe it's equally wrong.

    I would have been tempted to ask my kids how they'd feel if their father had determined something that you did as deserving of this treatment. How might they feel?

    Acts of violence on television are so frequent that people are desensitized. They might feel a little (hopefully a lot) differently if they had to imagine somebody they love in that scenario. Then they might begin to understand how wrong it is.

  2. the position of indian tele. serials are horrible nowadays.. i might be being a little strict but don't let your kids watch shows like this esp d one's on colours channel...they are certified primitive ppl..

    watch cartoon network it makes mre sense than them...

    i only watch star world n even sab tv @times..besides a few othr shows.. but it's my humble request don't let them watch those sick nonsense..!!

  3. Maria, Why did you not turn off the programme? You are after all their mother.

    Letters after a man's name are useless if he has no respect for his wife. Have you asked Mel how she would feel if a future husband beat her like in the programme. Would her brothers sit passively by condoning the punishment. Can you not use these programmes as a base for discussion on what is acceptable behaviour?

  4. @Grannymar - Good point. But you know we live in a combined family and there were other members of the family watching besides my children. My taking control and turning of the tv in that situation is not possible. I use them as a base for discussion all right, it's about the only option open to me at this point.

    @Anki - Cartoons are very violent too but at least the suspension of disbelief is at work. I've discussed that with the kids too.

    @Hilary - That's exactly what I'm afraid of. I would hate to think that my kids had been desensitized to something as bad as this.

  5. i hear you...violence, sex...they are rampant on american tv...and yes the attitude it conveys is picked up and carried forward. we are very selective in what we let our boys watch...there is no deserved it in degrading women...

  6. cartoon network does not provide domestic violence.. but reaalyy my sincere request is just ban these shows for your kids.. i have heard kids doing or saying obnoxious stuff all the influence of these daily soaps..!!

  7. It's no wonder that we hardly watch TV these days. However, I totally understand your joint-family situation. You know what? Children are going to be exposed to this in one form or the other. But they're blessed to have thinking and sensitive mom like you. I'm sure your discussions on the subject will help them to help their peers too.
    PS: I wondered if you got my mail?

  8. Things are not much better on English soaps.
    I think that it is very important to explain to children just how wrong it is to beat anyone else, women, children or men for that matter. I am certain that you are already doing this and that common sense will prevail in the end.
    The children cannot be shielded from these attitudes if they are living in that culture, so your explanations & views will be the one influence of counteracting the violence.
    We can only hope for the best with our children and grandchildren.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  9. It's quite disturbing that children are exposed to this kind of violence towards women on TV. But even worse is that they accept it as being the norm. Turkish TV can be a bit like that too.

    At least they have you to discuss the issues with. Is there no way you could have another TV in a different room for the children to watch?

  10. I wouldn't be happy about it either. This is horrible. These things become normal in no time. It's amazing how we can become dull to such abuse. You are right to point it out.

  11. Does this truly dipict an acceptable cultural difference in India. I know you said that you let your kids watch because of your combined family...that's why I'm curious.

  12. Television portrays the culture of the country that makes it.
    Of course, these scenes are horrifying to us Westerners, but they are obviously acceptable in india. It might be a good idea to have frequent serious talks with your children. Both of you, you and your husband.

  13. Admittedly, these social evils exist and they are abominable. There are households that are hooked to these and most Indian women seem to get a vicarious pleasure in seeing such obnoxious behaviour. A neighbour of mine thinks that Balika Vadhu is brilliant and has been impressing on me to see it! You cannot however brush them under the carpet and pretend that they don't exist by turning off the television or forbidding your children from seeing them. What needs to be done is to teach them how such practices are uncivilized and also expose them to those elements in our society which are fighting to correct the situation. There are any number of initiatives that are currently in action throughout the country and they are making progress, as slow as it may be.

  14. I agree-That would be very disturbing to me, as well! I hope you can choose to not let your children watch Indian television, or maybe you can use it as a teaching moment--Ask them how they feel about it when they see it and what they think about it.


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