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A day after the Golden Globes, Pakistan’s top-rated film and TV star, Mehwish Hayat posted a picture of herself, wearing black, and posted it in solidarity with her “colleagues in Hollywood” who had started the Time’s Up campaign and had decided to turn up to the awards in black as a form of protest. That move itself can be disputed, and I would love to talk about the futility of it, but right now there was something else on my mind. I was curious because while the Harvey Weinstein scandal has unearthed sexual exploitation in Hollywood, there are unreported cases of sexual exploitation and gender discrimination in Pakistan’s entertainment circuit too and they have always gone unreported or unspoken about.

I wondered why the actor hadn’t ever raised a voice against those.

I have immense respect for Mehwish Hayat as an actor; I think she did a terrific job in the films she featured in (especially Actor in Law and Punjab Nahin Jaungi) and has become a beacon of the strong-headed, unyielding woman that she has always portrayed. Mehwish has always been very vocal about wanting to portray powerful women who do not succumb to tears and tragedy for higher ratings. So I simply called her up and asked the question that was on everyone’s mind…


You posted a picture in solidarity with Hollywood but I want to ask why you or any other actress has never spoken against harassment here. In the industry or on a national level. Do we not have stories of gender indiscrimination to tell?

“OF COURSE, in a society where we live there are so many stories out there that are going unheard,” she responded from Dubai, where she currently is vacationing. “Not just in our showbiz industry but in every profession. Thankfully, I have been blessed to not have any personal first-hand experience within the industry but that’s not to say that it isn’t happening. The mentality of some of our menfolk can be gauged by the vile comments I got on my post highlighting this issue and giving my support to the “time’s up” campaign. Most were concerned about my looks and dress rather than the issue at hand. We need to get over this misogyny that men feel is their right in society.

It is wrong to say that I have not spoken out about these issues before,” she added. “Almost all the characters that I have been playing on screen have been dealing with these issues in one way or another. I think that our job as celebrities is to raise awareness of issues through our work and also through the platforms that we are afforded. Sexual harassment and women’s empowerment is something that I have been and will continue to work to highlight. Like Hollywood, I think that we as celebrities should take the lead in highlighting the issue and pushing for equality laws like they have in the West. Sexual harassment in any form should become a criminal offense with punitive deterrents.  My character in Actor in Law was about this whole subject and highlighted how inadequate the laws are in Pakistan.”