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Is the Ban on Joyland due to Transgender Persons Protection Act?

Joyland which is Pakistan’s entry for the Oscars 2023 is facing a ban on its screening in the country. The critically acclaimed film that shows a man falling in love with a transgender person earlier made headlines for winning Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard category at Cannes. The ban on Joyland by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is surprising because the censor boards of three provinces had already cleared it for release in Pakistan. The news about the revocation of the license of a film that has the potential to change the course in Pakistani cinema has not gone well with celebrities and the public. Film’s director Saim Sadiq has called the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s move to disallow the release of Joyland unconstitutional as it is against the spirit of the 18th amendment.

Ban on Joyland and Controversy around Transgender Persons Protection Act

Some prominent figures from religious political parties have hailed the government’s decision to put a ban on Joyland. Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan of Jamat-e-Islami called the cancellation of the film license a good act due to Pakistan being the Islamic Republic and anything that contradicted the Islamic idealogy couldn’t go well in the country.

Senator Mushtaq is also a vocal politician against the Transgenders Persons Protection Act(2018). The religious factions argue that the Act that was passed by the PTI government in 2018 allows anyone to change their gender thus paving a way for same-sex marriages. However, the proponents and transgenders rights activists in Pakistan claim that the Act just allows transgenders to change their gender to X on national ID cards and it doesn’t have any provision for marriage on the basis of a new identity. Hence, the concerns of conservative factions are baseless and transphobic.

Saim Sadiq’s Joyland which depicts the relationship between a trans woman and a man is facing roadblocks from the same factions who fear that such a depiction of transgenders in a movie is against social norms of the country as it indirectly promotes same-sex marriages. Presumably, roadblocks in the way of Joyland’s release are also due to the timing and controversy surrounding the trans person rights legislation. Religious groups are already pressurizing the government to retract Transgender Protection Act. Therefore, circumstances make it inevitable for them to not complain about a film that portrays the relationship of a trans woman with a man and then use it as an argument to substantiate their fears for a society where some sex marriages will be normalized.

Criticism of Joyland Ban

Earlier this year, when Joyland amassed admiration at the international level for its release at the Cannes film festival, people and showbiz folks in Pakistan felt overjoyed for getting recognition from such a prestigious platform. The massive success of the recently released film The Legend of Maula Jatt has also instilled hope that the country’s struggling film industry is still capable of competing at the international level. However, the ban on Joyland has appeared to be a backward step. It has left folks with the realization that making movies on taboo subjects and using the big screens to tell the tales of marginalized groups of society will take a lot more than just the creative geniuses of those associated with the fine arts. No wonders that apart from general public celebs like Nadia Jamil, Sajal Aly, Humayun Saeed, and many others have come forward to share their concerns on the fate of Joyland decided by the religious polity of Pakistan.

Lately, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has constituted a committee to review Joyland and assess it on the basis of merits and complaints.

Media reports also suggest that Joyland will be released in some international destinations to complete the one-week theatrical run; a pre-requisite for entering the race to win the Oscars.

A I Butt
A I Butt
The purpose of my writing is to record the same voices that are repressed by manual systems.
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