There has been quite a buzz about Padmavat in the past few months. But, when movies are a point of discussion, they should be about the real-life implications they are themed around and the societal concerns they involve, if any.
This brings me to a movie, which we should be talking about – Padman. Not the cast, not the release date, but the core issue – menstrual hygiene.
Although we seem to be engaged in ’constructive’ conversations, do we actually get the gravity of the current scenario of menstrual hygiene in our country? I doubt.
Let me state some facts here – as per National Family Health Survey (2015-16), only 57.6 percent women adopt hygienic methods during menstruation, 77.5 percent in urban areas while just 48.2 percent in rural regions. Also, a research done by Nielsen and Plan India states, at least one in five girls drop out of school once the menstrual cycle begins. While just 12 percent girls and women use sanitary napkins. They rely on old cloth pieces/ rags that simply goes on to become a major root cause of reproductive diseases.
Hence, the battle is against numerous implications of the above scenario. A ripple was caused in the sea of exchanging dialogues when government levied 12% GST on sanitary pads which are already inaccessible to millions of women. However, we need to give rise to a wave, the one which ushers in the rise in awareness, hygiene, and accessibility to the napkins.
Now, why the focus on the movie?
Akshay Kumar-starrer Toilet hit the theatres in August last year. It dealt with the issue of open defecation in our country. Akshay, in an interview last month, said, when he began shooting for the movie 54 per cent people did not have toilets, and now the figure has decreased to 32 percent. This is the change we need to bring about!
The movie is a biopic on Arunachalam Muruganantham, also referred as India’s ‘Menstrual Man’. He started a revolution after observing how his wife was compelled to go the unhygienic way since she had to choose basic necessities over sanitary napkins. He searched and experimented various methods until finally, he built a sanitary pad-making machine. It makes less expensive, sterilized pads, to enable women to afford them. Currently, over 2500 machines are being used in India and 17 other nations. He received a Padma Shri for distinguished service in social work last year and was among the 100 most influential people in the Time magazine in 2014.
The major concerns are accessibility and the pricing of the sanitary napkins. In a country like ours where menstruation is still a taboo, it is going to take a lot more than dialogues to make people understand how it is as much as a human right as education. I’d say the GST should be eliminated, when bindi, sindoors, and condoms could be tax-free.