An upcoming biopic that will increase awareness about menstrual hygiene management.
A biopic on Arunachalam Muruganantham, who is also known as the Menstrual Man of India, has been titled as ‘PadMan’. Scheduled to be released in April 2018, PadMan is a story of a school dropout who decides to challenge one of the many taboos in the Indian society.
He chose to talk about menstruation and went on inventing cheap sanitary napkins for women across the country.
The story of this film revolves around the PadmaShri receiver, who openly talked about the hardships women face during their menstrual cycle and the importance of hygiene awareness among the women in his village in Coimbatore. With his drive to raise awareness about this much-talked-about social taboo about women in India, he went on to create a low-cost machine for the production of sanitary pads which also won a national innovation award. Further in 2014, he was listed among the 100 Most Influential People in the world in the Time Magazine. Today, he is successfully running a napkin business; his company is called Jayashree Industries, with 2003 units across the country.
Though the release date of the film has been announced, the certificate rating of the film has not been disclosed. A similar film called Phullu which almost delved into a similar subject was given an Adult (A) certificate and therefore was unable to reach the target audience. It will be interesting to find out the fate of this film in terms of the certification as the target audience is again the teenagers of the country.
Ina Jorge, who is the International Coordinator Menstrual Hygiene Day, WASH United, a non-profit organization said, “The PERIOD! Film in India will be another contribution to the current global movement. While India is a country with many challenges and deeply rooted in cultural norms, there are initiatives and the government is aware of the issue (there is a national policy and Menstrual Hygiene has been part of the Swach-a-thon).”
Breaking the taboo
Describing the taboo that goes around with menstruation Ina said, “The whole aspect of menstruation is a taboo, that is a global fact. When a topic remains in silence, no one dares to speak about it as it is considered a taboo or a negative subject. The challenges and negative impact of poor menstrual hygiene management also remain unknown. And as a consequence, solutions are not offered. Therefore it is so important to break the silence and taboos.”
Access and awareness are the two folds of this issue; Lack of any one of these can impact human hygiene. In both the cases, it is the women who are at the loss.
“Sanitary pads are a necessity not a luxury.” Many Indian women still old method for managing menstruation. In order to remove the stigma associated with this natural process, several international and national organisation came together to celebrate the first ever Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, 2017.
Though the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) reports from the past few years suggest that there has been a rise in awareness about menstrual hygiene among Indian women, there still exists a gap between the market and female customers.
Maneka Gandhi Responding to a petition filed by Sushmita Dev, Member of Parliament and President of All India Mahila Congress said, “We need to find ways to make affordable sanitary napkins available to all women to ensure their health and well being.”
Taxing the necessity
When the country was rejoicing the implementation of one unified tax, there were several people protesting the implementation of 12 pc tax on sanitary napkins. As it is, a higher cost is associated with the product, plus introducing a 12 pc GST will further reduce affordability. While implementing the taxes, there were some essential products that were exempted from taxes, but sanitary napkins were not excluded.
Many believe that films like PadMan can also affect the policy-making and can result in removal of the newly imposed GST on sanitary napkins.
A petition was initiated by Minister Sushmita Dev, Member of Parliament, which called for feminine hygiene products to be tax-free. The petition has been signed by more than 300,000 people.
Sushmita Dev in her petition against the taxes on sanitary napkins, said, “step needs be taken by the central government to make sanitary napkins tax free (like condoms and contraceptives) as it is an essential item which is a necessity for every woman.”
In spite of the fact that there was a revamp of GST on October 7, 2017, no attention was paid to the petition.
Ina also believes, “social norms will change, yet that needs time, so let’s start with the adolescent girls who are curious and need to understand that a period is something completely normal. I personally believe every woman and girl has lots of power – and a period should not hold her back!”