National Award-winning actor Akshay Kumar, who is addressing the issue of menstrual hygiene in his forthcoming film PadMan, said that women should get sanitary napkins for free as it is a basic necessity for them.
At a recent promotional event for the film, Akshay said, “Why just cut down on GST only [on pads]? I think women should have free access to sanitary napkins. This is their basic necessity. It is about menstrual hygiene and not luxury.”
He emphasised that women should not be denied this basic necessity and that they should not be shunned for something which is a natural process.
“It is unfortunate and I am ashamed to say that 82 per cent women in this country have no access to sanitary pads and they are often mistreated, treated as outsiders and are made to sleep in the veranda during those five days of their menstruation period. This is unfortunate,” he added.
PadMan is a biopic on Arunachalam Muruganantham, the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad making machine in India.
The subject of periods and menstrual hygiene is largely considered to be a taboo or a sensitive issue. To this Kumar responded, “Firstly, do not call it a sensitive issue. It is a natural process of a human body. It is time to get rid of those taboos attached to it. It is time to address the issue maturely. Also from the women’s end, they should not shy away from talking about the issue, and certainly should not whisper about it.”
Kumar added that it should be “celebrated when a girl meets with her puberty”.
“When you celebrate it, the girl who is already going through a physical and hormonal transition, will feel confident and secure. But we excluded our women from the normalcy of life during those five days. So from the first experience, women feel that period is something they should hide. So you know where we should start from,” he remarked.
In the film, Akshay had to don a pink underwear with a sanitary napkin and he said that had no qualms about having done so nor was he embarrassed of it.
“Wearing pink panties with a sanitary pad was not at all challenging and shameful for me. I did it with complete ease,” he said. “You guys feel it is a challenge, but it is the most natural thing. The day you guys will stop seeing it as a challenge, more women will be comforted. So I don’t think my role in the movie is challenging, or that we are talking about a sensitive issue. I am glad, I am seeing more and more people discussing sanitary pads on social media. That’s a victory in its own way.”
The actor commented that the treatment of women due to the taboo surrounding periods and the lack of menstrual hygiene afforded to them upset him.
“Since the last couple of years, I have been meeting women. The biggest problem for them is their periods. It is not only because of the physical pain that they go through, but people around them make it a taboo. They do not have personal hygiene at all which is disheartening. It is shocking and shameful that we treat our women like this.”
“Like many other social issues, religion is definitely one of the reason menstruation is seen as a taboo,” said the 50-year-old actor.
Produced by Akshay’s wife Twinkle Khanna and directed by R. Balki, PadMan is slated to release on January 26.