The #PadManBan is another example of Pakistan making the country a “comfortable” place for men, not its women

Published: February 16, 2018
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The Punjab Censor Board even denied watching the movie because of how “inappropriate” it was.

One often goes to the cinema to escape from the harsh realities of the world. The two or three hours spent at the theatre either throw us into fits of laughter, push us to the edge of our seats, or put us right to sleep if the movie is a snoozefest. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to watch a movie and encourage others to watch it too just because of its intriguing and eye-opening content.

Twinkle Khanna’s movie PadMan starring Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte, is one such movie that needs our attention. The movie talks about menstrual hygiene and normalising the most natural biological function of a woman. However, not surprising is the fact that PadMan has been banned by the Pakistan Federal Censor Board. They believe it shows content which is taboo in our society and find it unacceptable to be screened in our country. The Punjab Censor Board even denied watching the movie because of how “inappropriate” it was. According to a senior member of the Punjab Censor Board,

“We cannot allow a film whose name, subject and story are not acceptable yet in our society.”

PadMan is just one of the movies in recent times based on sensitive topics. Movies such as MardaaniPINK, Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women, and so on, have awaken the audience and initiated much-needed discussions on various social issues.

When all these movies weren’t a threat to the Pakistani cinema, why is PadMan? If we can’t even talk about these issues, how will we address the problems in our society?

It is difficult to fathom the shame surrounding menstruation, as every woman goes through it and is a sign of good health. Rather than keeping this issue under wraps, we should be raising awareness on the unhygienic practices that take place in this society and the lack of means for menstrual hygiene. Considering the level of illiteracy and backwardness in the subcontinent, it is essential to shed light on the unhygienic menstrual practices. What best way to do this than through the cinema? Indian movies watched all over the world and hence it was an appropriate way to spread message.

Recently, the Water and Sanitation Cell of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) organised a seminar related to Menstrual Hygiene Day. They highlighted a gruesome fact that “79% of Pakistani women do not manage periods hygienically”. Shazia Sardar from Integrated Rural Support System stated that one-third of girls cannot complete their primary education and drop out of school due to the lack of proper menstrual sanitary arrangements at schools. There are so many women in the subcontinent that use old cloths during their period days because of the lack of accessibility and/or affordability of sanitary napkins.

It is the 21st century; women play an active role in the society. There needs to be proper systems in place that make life during their period days easier for them. They shouldn’t have to walk on egg shells when buying pads or taking them out to go change in the washroom. We shouldn’t hide it from our daughters till it becomes absolutely necessary to tell them about their body. We shouldn’t teach them not to talk about it; instead they should be made to feel comfortable in their own bodies and not feel ashamed of natural processes.

This is a country where women wake up for sehri during Ramazan even when they are excused from fasting because of their period. It isn’t only because of the lack of ability of Pakistani men to fix a meal themselves but also because they do not want people asking questions. Instead of telling the men in their family why they aren’t fasting, it is just easier for them to get up in the morning and fake it the whole day.

Is it not suffocating to hide the most natural thing about your body every month from the men in your family? How does one go about doing so when they live under the same roof? Menstruation awareness should be given to all fathers, brothers, husbands and even our sons. This would just make things comfortable for women and they would not have to hide themselves every month. It will help all those women acquiring for emotional support, when they are in pain and need some special attention. Awareness would not only give women the courage to walk strong but will also help the men of our society realise the problems that a woman goes through.

There were many people who came out in support of the Censor Board’s decision of not screening PadMan. Not too many days ago, we were beating the drums of sex education, and rightfully so. The world has become a horrible place for children and they should be taught of the shadows that lurk in the darkness. However, when people claim that a movie about something as natural as menstruation is taboo and goes against our culture and religion, how do they plan to talk to their children about paedophiles? If something as normal as periods makes the people of this country blush 50 shades of red, then let’s just say goodbye to ever even educating our children on something as shameful as child sexual abuse.

It is perfectly okay for the Censor Board to approve movies that objectify women. I mean Katrina Kaif’s groovy moves and Malaika Arora’s perfectly sculptured body deserves to be given screen time. Who cares if they are item songs meant to sexualise women on screen? At that moment, the content isn’t “inappropriate” or “taboo”. Everyone here keeps singing praises for those women; they don’t remember religion at that time. Why would they? It is appealing to their eyes. But a movie that is actually beneficial for the society and educates women on the use of sanitary pads automatically becomes too much for them to handle.

These are the films that captivate you to wake up and open your mind. These are the storylines which help in creating dialogues that don’t really find space in our daily lives. The reason for the ban is obviously the discomfort it causes among the general audience. This is the discomfort that needs to be shattered so that the society can progress.

We see how the world is moving ahead at lightning speed while we’re stuck in the doldrums in Pakistan. It is the attitude which does not allow one to embrace any change or progress. Learning about the unknown is progress. Learning about the hidden is change. Having knowledge at your fingertips with the technology of smartphones, Google and the internet – there must be no excuse to not know about mensuration. Then why ban PadMan, when it is only helping our society?

Syeda Fizza Hasan Rizvi

Syeda Fizza Hasan Rizvi

The author is a graduate from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. She formerly worked as a designer at Khaadi. Writing has always been her passion.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Anam Shabbir

    Beautifully writtenRecommend

  • Ahsan Ali

    With all due respect, its seems like we have lost all moral sense of what is supposed to be said in public and what cant be., movies are distractions, they can only be meaningful and effective in societies that not only openly accept these things but are educated enough to take these things in to consideration.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Great blog. Well written. Kudos to you.
    Agree with you. Keep up the good work.Recommend

  • Hamza Arshad

    Actually We do not want women to feel embarrass. Girls should make this hygienic no doubt but girls keep it as a secret and they will never feel comfortable to discuss about it openly. Women should get educated about this subject but this should be a private matter.Recommend

  • vinsin

    So you think that the author has written this article because she wants to feel embarrassed? So why it is not discussed right now in Pakistan among Pakistani women? Recommend

  • Veer Singh

    While its neighboring countries & the world moves forward, it seems Pakistan is moving backward & regressing as a nation.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Who is “we”? Let the women decide what need to be discussed.
    Don’t make assumptions they will “never” feel comfortable to discuss
    it. This blog is a way to educate women too and make them aware and
    that it is not a strictly “private” matter.Recommend

  • HIGH

    Excellent…Recommend

  • Parvez

    Brilliant stuff ….. actions like this not only reflects our blinkered vision but highlights our deep rooted hypocrisy as well.Recommend

  • Arsha

    That’s not true. I have no discomfort talking about this with my male friends and it’s the same for most urban women. I have even been in situations where I had to ask my male friends to stop at a store if I had to urgently buy hygiene products. Not sure if you have participated in mature conversations in mixed gender groups…. No one finds it a taboo topic as long as there is an objective respectful conversation.Recommend

  • Usman

    That’s you. Unless you are saying that somehow just because you have no discomfort other women also don’t feel discomfort talking about it. Don’t judge others based on your own values (i guess or whatever) !
    Violence in movies doesn’t really disturb me and didn’t when i was 12 years old so based on that should the MPAA just stop rating movies 18+ just because I was watching those movies when I was 12 ?..Recommend

  • Patwari

    We can go in great detail about the women’s lot
    in Bharat. Which you will not like reading.
    From being the Rape Capital of the World, from
    foreign countries advising their female citizens to
    curtail all plans to visit India. Not to mention women
    being raped on the sidewalk, in the middle of the day!
    So which country is regressing as a nation?Recommend

  • Arsha

    And you made the same point that I was trying to make. Do not generalize and take a decision based upon your own bias that women should not do this or that or will feel this way or that. We should let women have that choice for themselves. If they don’t want to talk about something they wont, you don’t decide on their behalf.Recommend

  • Veer Singh

    Please give me reference of any country other than Pakistan where India is referenced to as “Rape Capital of the world”. The reality is that when it comes the highest rate of rape, India is not even in top 50 countries of the world and in fact the rate of rape in Pakistan is twice that of India and when it comes to child rapes, Pakistan is one of the worst. I don’t deny there’s a rape problem in India but we have laws in place and are working on making rape laws & enforcement even tougher. Backward is the country like Pakistan where a woman who is raped is treated as a criminal instead of victim & needs four witnesses to prove rape. All the “India is rape capital of world” nonsense is nothing but fallacious propaganda which help you guys sleep better at night.Recommend

  • farhan

    yup definitely dont want to hear them about bleeding once a month from private partsRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    I have no discomfort talking about this with my male friends and it’s the same for most urban women.

    You have no discomfort but what about your male friends? Poor sod listening to your jibberish on women hygene? there is limit on sharing privcies with others and this does not entail personal hygene.

    Rex MinorsRecommend

  • gp65

    Veer Singh was perhaps out of line in unnecessarily making this about India and Pakistan when it should have been about empowering women.

    Having said that, your response was ad hominem and not on point at all. please check rape per 1000 statistics. I do not think India is in top 25. So the notion that India is world’s rape capital is not based on facts.

    As far as travel advisories go, they restrict people from going to Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur which have active insurgencies. Certainly there are no advisories asking female citizens to curtail ALL plans to India.

    I do think that Indian women are more empowered in terms of education, mobility and their issues having a political voice (going purely by what I have read and heard from Pakistani friends locally). However, India too has no grounds for complacence and has a Long way to go. People from each country should focus on correcting the unfairness and lack of access in their own countries rather than trying to feel happy at the situation in the ‘other’ country.Recommend

  • gp65

    “Is it not suffocating to hide the most natural thing about your body every month from the men in your family? How does one go about doing so when they live under the same roof? Menstruation awareness should be given to all fathers, brothers, husbands and even our sons. This would just make things comfortable for women and they would not have to hide themselves every month”
    Well said. This is the crux.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Will defer to you in the sense that “agree to disagree”.
    There were foreign nations travel advisories, to their
    female citizens, against travel to India ‘alone’.
    This was a few years ago and may still be valid.
    As memory serves, it was Dutch, German and the
    Scandinavian countries. Plus Japan.
    Some very unsavory rape incidents in India contributed
    to this ‘unsafe female’ image. Like it or not, it has stuck.
    “yours truly” is a frequent tourist/visitor to India’s hill stations.
    Nainital, Corbett Nationak Park, Mussoorie, Ranikhet, Almora,
    Hazarbagh, Pithoragarh, Nanda Devi, Darjiling. Beautiful areas.
    But now, in recent years, feel very apprehensive about going at all.
    Due to a upsurge in religious extremism. Not as safe as in the past.
    This is one person’s personal opinion.Recommend

  • Gp65

    I respect and understand your need to honor your sense of personal safety. Would like to point out that the religious extremism has not increased as much as the reporting of the incidents concerning religious extremism. Just as rapes have not increased but reporting on rapes has. I feel those are good debates for a country to have because mindset changes are necessary (in addition to better law and order of course) and can only be triggered by discussion and debate.
    Yes, the unsavory incidents happened – no denying that. But it was Indian media that made a big deal about the issue. If it has some adverse impact on tourism in the short term, it is a price well worth paying to ensure a better future for all.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Very wrong choice of words. How can you say “Indian Media made a
    ‘big deal’ of reporting on these bone chilling incidents of rapes” of foreign
    and domestic women in India! Ask any one victim wheather or not it was
    a big deal. Indian media did so very rightly. Kudos to them. [They were
    still free then. All reporting was allowed, no govt. censors like currently]
    Never mind the fact that these incidents were reported in all 4 corners of
    the world.
    Perhaps the people who were adversely effected will give you a better perspective on curtailed tourism. On where their next meal is coming from
    or who pays their children’s school fees. Since tourism was their livelihood
    for generations. The guides, the trackers, the maids, the cooks, the hotels
    the dhobis, the mahouts, the outfitters and many more, ask them.
    You would be shocked at what they have to say.
    Don’t be so nonchalant about the price worth paying. Ask the ones who are
    really paying the price for the ‘unsavory incidents’ and religious extremism.Recommend

  • salman

    Of course! Who else but a man can better explain what women feel?Recommend

  • gp65

    I am implying that making a big deal was a GOOD thing not a bad thing. It is important that mindsets are changed. Rape cannot be reduced by treating it only as a law and order problem. Of course law and order needs to be improved but also the social attitudes to women need a significant change and media has a role in facilitating that change.Recommend

  • Sane sid

    They will understand after…..CPECRecommend