Your husband beat you up? No worries, now you can cover it up with makeup

Published: December 4, 2016

Moroccan TV show recently taught women how to cover up bruises they got as a result of domestic violence. After a lot of hue and cry, the video was removed but it still sparked outrage on social media, and Moroccan rights groups were extremely vocal about insisting that the show be cancelled completely.

But let’s take a step back, shall we. Let’s go back to the moment the producer and the team of that show actually decided that this feather-brained idea would be a great seller. Let’s go back to the moment where everyone said,

“Hey, you know what would be fantastic? If all those women who got battered by their husbands actually figured out which shade of foundation would be perfect to hide those tell-tale black and blue marks!”

In this moment, the moment where they approve this segment, you see what’s really wrong with how society and media looks at domestic violence. It’s not just Morocco, every other day, Pakistani dramas or TV shows often condone this type of behaviour where heroines are often seen accepting their fates and are shown ‘compromising’ even though the husband is a complete jerk.

What’s wrong is how domestic violence is almost acceptable in our society, to the point that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) issued the famous “it is permissible to lightly beat you defying wife” statement. In another bizarre report, 53% of teenage women in Pakistan responded that if a wife refused her husband sex, he is rightfully allowed to physically assault her. 63% people responded, in another poll, that a boy’s education is more important than a girl’s.

Why is this last poll important?

Because it elaborates just how skewed our priorities are about reducing gender bias – it’s skewed to the point of harming our women and girls and how they are framing their opinions. Girls grow up thinking and learning that they are second-grade citizens in the world, they are told that their education is not as important as their brothers’. That they owe their husbands sex even if they do not love or want them. They are told that if they disobey, it’s appropriate if they are thrashed – they were probably asking for it.

Just within the time period of July through September, Punjab Gender Parity report stated that incidents of torture against women were on the rise by 20%. This is despite the fact that the Punjab assembly passed the landmark bill the same year, calling to an end to violence against women. Then what’s going on? Why are the cases of abuse still on the rise? Why hasn’t this bill deterred men from hitting, maiming, raping, killing, stoning, and bludgeoning women?

Because the truth is, like those oblivious producers of that Moroccan TV channel, the average person, even in Pakistan, has little to no idea that domestic violence is not acceptable. They would make jokes about it, make light of it. A few days ago, I came across a picture of some male model tightly gripping a female model’s wrist that in no way looked consensual at a fashion show. In our dramas, films, novels and various entertainment scopes, the girl who bravely faces her husband’s misdemeanour or abuse is shown as a heroine and ‘responsible’. Women who tolerate their husbands’ abuse are considered courageous – very few plots expand on how a man who is abusive and entitled is a reflection of almost every other man in our society. Very rarely does this dynamic get explored – what sells more is the damsel in distress, the valiant heroine who accepts her fate and tries to do the best she can.

The culture of accepting domestic violence and the tradition of silencing the victim is what causes stupid media antics such as these. These are simply a reflection of what the people are really thinking, and the people have internalised misogyny to a very large extent. When a woman speaks out against abuse, she is vilified by the society, her peers and the criminal justice system. And instead of changing or challenging the status quo, the media and the populace just becomes hell bent on justifying and rationalising the failure of our society in protecting its women.


Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.