Since the announcement of its release, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming film Padmavati has been controversial. Every news anchor has an opinion, and the politicians, well, they’ve effing lost the plot, haven’t they?
Besides burning effigies; threats of violence abound. The Karni Sena has even threatened to chop off Deepika Padukone’s nose, Ramayana-style, for her titular role as the Rajput princess Padmini in the film. Most recently, Haryana’s BJP media chief announced (yes, announced) a Rs 10 Crore bounty on the heads of the film’s star Deepika Padukone and director Bhansali.
Ten Crore is a lot of money for us, but maybe not the BJP. We are also not sure if Padmavati — the first mention of whom appears in a Sufi epic by 16th-century poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi — is even real. Either way, does it even matter?
Here are five real problems faced by present-day real women in India that could use that Rs 10 crores.
At election time, we constantly hear about women’s issues, and health invariably comes up. Once a party is elected, nothing much happens by way of improving the condition of Indian women. How do we know this? It has been 70 years since India gained independence, and still half of all women in the country are anaemic, according to the Global Nutrition Report. No political party has ever agitated over these grim numbers: 50% of Indian women suffer. We suppose the condition — that can cause low productivity, illness, and death — is not as sexy as Deepika in a Sabyasachi choli, but it could do with that bounty money.
2. Marital Rape
Not again with the Marital Rape, you’re thinking? We bet you’re not. It’s an issue that needs addressing, and our Supreme Court kicked it out with platitudes. They criminalised marital rape of underage girls. Of course, it’s already illegal to marry a minor in India, so how does the question of marital rape arise there? Because we don’t enforce the Statute enough, and it’s filled with loopholes no one wants to confront. But who cares, right? The SC put out its order on International Girl Child Day; everyone celebrated our forward-thinking judges. Meanwhile, India is one of just 36 countries in the world that allows husbands to rape their wives. What do our politicians say when they’re confronted with this issue? “It’s part of our culture.” Maybe if Bhansali made a movie showing a Rajput woman being raped by a Muslim husband. Who knows?
3. Lack of jobs
Ever wondered where all the Indian women are working? According to a 2010 report by United Nations India, 85% of our country’s women work in vulnerable environments. This means they work in places with no minimum wage, no employment benefits, and where they can be easily (no, where they are) exploited. The report says 37.4 million women work in home-based jobs and 5.7 million work as construction labourers. Meanwhile, higher up jobs are held mostly by men. For example, a 2015 University Grants Commission survey found that women scientists procure about 37% of all PhDs, but less than 15% hold any faculty positions in Indian educational institutes. We guess science just isn’t a polling issue because no politician has EVER brought it up. Fact. Check it. We want you to.
4. Menstrual health and hygiene
Women bleed once a month; it is biology. Our politicians might be calling for some women’s heads, but they aren’t ready to confront the blood. Poor menstrual hygiene could land women in severe medical trouble. Many women, especially in rural India, are forced to use rags, sand, ash, newspapers and dry leaves, because they can’t afford sanitary material. Add to that the stigma around menstruation and women lose out on 4-7 days of education or work, in a month. You know what the government did to help out real women? They decided to tax the sanitary napkin, thus making it more expensive. Where was the bounty against the idiot who decided that? We don’t have Rs 10 crore, BJP, but your party seems to have it lying around, so use it to pay out our sanitary pad tax, we would genuinely appreciate it.
5. Public safety
Governments come, and governments go, making promises about women’s safety and security. Promises of CCTV aside, the number of women police officers patrolling remains at a bare minimum; poorly lit spaces are practically the norm in Indian cities, let alone rural India. Will a day arrive when women can take buses without being groped, or travel solo by night without fear? Oh, how our pepper sprays long to retire!