You can take a concrete, tiny, powerful step which will stop, at least in part, the harmful content that supports and propagates child marriage, child abuse and pedophilia in mainstream Indian media. Here’s Preeti Vyas’ powerful piece on #PehredaarPiyaKi 

If you are active on social media, in the past few days, you have probably come across the hashtag #BanPahredarPiyaki. Before I start urging you to join the protest, let me give you a quick catch-up. In the show, (and I watched 3 cringe-worthy episodes) circumstances force a 19 year old girl to marry a 9 year old ‘prince’ in order to ‘protect’ him from his scheming relatives after his parents are killed in an accident.

No, this is not a period drama set in an India hundreds of years ago. The characters use ipads and smartphones to make video calls, some female characters wear jeans and have blue streaks in their hair; it is very much set in current India. The ‘Piya‘ in question is smitten by the obvious beauty of the female lead, and she in turn addresses him as “Daata Hukum”. The episode I saw had the prince in his school uniform being advised by an older boy to take his wife on a ‘honeymoon’ I did not have the courage to watch the ‘suhaag raat’ scene- yes, there was one. I think you get the drift.

Yes, it’s a no-brainer, the content, the theme, the message- it is all appalling and disgusting. A show that openly condones child marriage and child abuse.

But the show is big. On YouTube alone each of the episodes has nearly 5 lakh views and one has over a million views! The TV viewership I am sure is much bigger.

So why do you need to protest? I read many comments from educated friends on my timeline saying “If you don’t like it, turn the TV off; You don’t have to watch it but don’t impose your views on others; freedom of expression, being stupid isn’t illegal, we can’t ban everything we don’t like etc”. I agree, and it’s for this reason I don’t watch ANY TV, not even the news. So why must we protest this?

  1. Because it is 2017 and while we are among the fastest growing economies in the world, a quick google search reveals that India has the highest number of child marriages in the world. It is estimated that 47% of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday. The rates of child marriage are as high as 69% and 65% in Bihar and Rajasthan. I don’t need to tell you why child marriage is wrong and why we should do everything possible to stop this.
  2. Because being stupid might not be illegal but child marriage, child abuse and pedophilia are. It’s not about responsible vs irresponsible content. It’s about legal v/s illegal. It’s about protecting the rights of children.
  3. Because TV impacts the overall social consciousness, creating paradigms of acceptable behaviour. You may not watch the show, but there are millions across India- adults and children, who are obviously lapping it up,  believing that the regressive acts shown are not only acceptable but to be encouraged because they fall under the larger umbrella of ‘culture’, ‘sanskaar‘ and ‘reeti-rivaaj’. Prime time telecast, being aired on a major mainstream channel (SonyTV), coupled with MNC sponsors and glitzy sets/ costumes give it the ultimate stamp of approval. Popular TV could be the best medium for social change or the most dangerous one depending on the content. Imagine the influence on young minds watching the show with their parents ( yes prime time shows are family affairs)
  4. Because we, on social media live in a cocooned world, a bubble of sorts, ‘liking’ each other’s posts and agreeing with each other’s rants. We cannot imagine that anyone would like this show. We post a few comments and feel righteous but in reality we are ‘slacktivists‘- deriving a sense of activism by hitting the ‘like’ button. Change in society does not come about by putting off the TV or clicking on a sad face emoji. It comes from taking real action

While you are reading this an innocent 10 year old somewhere in our country is being readied for marriage. You may not be able to travel to that town in Bihar and protect that little life. But you can take a concrete, tiny, powerful step which will stop, at least in part, the harmful content that supports and propagates child marriage, child abuse and pedophilia in mainstream Indian media. Because, like it or not, it plays a HUGE role in influencing behaviour.

I would like to humbly and passionately implore anyone reading this post to click on http://www.ibfindia.com/ and post a genuine complaint to the I&B ministry to put a ban on this absolutely regressive show. This is the official Government site and we luckily live in a digital age where we can directly speak to people in power who can take action.  Do it, please and help put a stop to this dangerous show that pushes the cause of child rights in India a hundred steps back!

Preeti Vyas is the founder and Chief Fun Officer of the independent children’s publishing house, FunOKPlease which publishes contemporary Indian content for children. She lives in Mumbai and is mother to an 8 year old nature activist! www.funokplease.com