Sameera is realising just how selfishly everyone around has treated her in the aftermath of her sexual assault.
Sameera is realising just how selfishly everyone around has treated her in the aftermath of her sexual assault.

Drama serial Ruswai tells the story of a young physician, Sameera (Sana Javed), who while out with her family is kidnapped and gang-raped.

Since then, subsequent episodes have focused on Sameera’s life in the aftermath of rape… specifically, the many ways in which she is revictimised over and over again - this time, by the people in her life.

When Sameera first returns home, her mom and sister can barely bring themselves to hug her. Her father is unable to make eye contact with her because he blames himself. And, perhaps worst of all, it takes her fiance Salman (Mikaal Zulfiqar) several days before he can find the strength to go and visit her.

It is not the responsibility of the survivor to educate. —Screengrab
It is not the responsibility of the survivor to educate. —Screengrab

Later, when Sameera reveals her plans to go public with her story, her parents and Salman tell her to forget about it because she’s supposed to be his “ghar ki izzat”.

A lot of viewers have taken issue with Ruswai for being overfocused on saas-bahu shenanigans. While it’s true that too much time is spent on susraal dramatics and theatrics (Sameera’s brother is married to Salman’s sister which means nonstop turmoil), I personally appreciate the show creators’ efforts to show Sameera’s subtle and not-so-subtle mistreatment at the hands of her loved ones as a way to communicate just how exhausting it is to be revictimised repeatedly by society in the aftermath of rape.

In more recent episodes, Ruswai has shifted from showing Sameera’s husband Salman and her in laws’ verbal abuse to Salman’s actual, physical abuse. On top of it, viewers come to know that Salman is cheating on Sameera.

Can you believe it?
Can you believe it?

Watching the past few episodes of Ruswai reminds me of something a lawyer colleague of mine told me once: that more than any other crime, rape victims remain victims the longest.

This is because survivors of sexual violence are not just let down by inefficient criminal justice systems. They are also let down by people in their lives and a society that still does not know how to handle the taboo subject of rape.

And this, I think is the heart of the message of Ruswai - that no matter how educated, modern, highbrow or high class we may believe ourselves to be, when it comes to dealing with survivors of sexual assault, we remain illiterate, ill-prepared and bigoted.

Take as an example Salman and his parents. They are shown to be educated, fancy schmancy, high society types. But, when Sameera comes home “tainted” and wants to take her case through the courts, their true colours bleed through.


Ruswai is social commentary on how all of us are - regardless of where we may fall on the social spectrum, or what our income level is or even our IQs - complicit in the constant revictimisation of rape survivors.


It’s the ever-persistent and thorny subject of family honor, it’s the “log kya kehengay” mentality. It’s toxic. And, it’s slowly killing us women.

Salman agrees to marry Sameera on the condition that she keep her mouth shut about what happened to her. But, in last week’s episode, we find out that the news has been leaked on social media. Immediately, Sameera’s sister loses a potential rishta and, worst of all, the supposedly educated and sensible Salman turns into a wife-beating deadbeat.

To add insult to injury, Salman’s parents stand by watching silently as their son drags his wife into the bedroom for a beating that leaves her bruised and bloody.

No one stands up for Sameera when Salman physically assaults her.
No one stands up for Sameera when Salman physically assaults her.

Why is it necessary for the creators of Ruswai to show us Sameera’s verbal and physical abuse? Why is she shown as a weak woman who is passively enduring a marriage so hopelessly demeaning?

It’s because this is the reality behind the statistics of how underreported rape is in our country and this is the reality behind the thorny subject of who gets raped and who reports (for instance, one of Sameera’s young and poor rape victim’s parents not only support her but also plan to pursue her rapists).


Ruswai is finally headed in the right direction because with Sameera finally catching Salman cheating on her, she seems to be waking up from her forced victimhood and realising just how selfishly everyone around her has treated her in the aftermath of her sexual assault.


Ruswai is social commentary on how all of us are - regardless of where we may fall on the social spectrum, or what our income level is or even our IQs - complicit in the constant revictimisation of rape survivors.

Like Sameera’s family is doing to her, our society also repeatedly silences rape victims by making them fear public disclosure and by treating survivors like some sort of leperous pariahs.

It seems that after weeks at a slow boil, Ruswai is finally headed in the right direction because with Sameera finally catching Salman cheating on her, she seems to be waking up from her forced victimhood and realising just how selfishly everyone around her has treated her in the aftermath of her sexual assault.

The burden of family 'honour' inevitably falls on the daughter.
The burden of family 'honour' inevitably falls on the daughter.

This is why, in last week’s episode, she tells her mom that she’s fed up with constantly being told how her honour is tied to her father, brother or her husband’s. And this is why we have the character of Dr. Feroz increasingly becoming a central figure.

In a room full of people hellbent on imposing their values and morals on Sameera, Dr. Feroz may just be the only person hellbent on letting Sameera shed her fear and fly.

If you are back and forth on whether to continue giving Ruswai a chance, I’m here to tell you to tune into the next episode. We have plenty of drama serials showing us the many ways sexual assault victims are let down by the criminal justice system.

Ruswai is a different kind of drama and it’s here to show us the other side of the same coin - the many ways loved ones can let down survivors of sexual assault.

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