Iffat Omar
Iffat Omar's Instagram post
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Some people were so infuriated that they threatened to have me thrown out of my country. I am a woman, and any issue related to my gender has no nationality.

On 14 February, I posted a picture of myself with a pad on my Instagram. It was meant to be a harmless post to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene and promote womanhood. Instead, I was attacked by hundreds of angry commentators, telling me that what I did was ‘vulgar’ and not the act of a Muslim.

I haven’t seen Padman because the film has not been allowed screening in Pakistan. But if the film helps to spread awareness, then I am definitely against the ban. India and Pakistan have many of the same problems, and I’m sure if the movie had been shown here, it would have achieved everything it is doing in India.

But not in my wildest dreams had I expected this kind of response to my Instagram #Padmanchallenge. What I wanted was to promote a safe and comfortable environment for women, and remove the taboos that are attached to menstruation.

I was also accused of using this as a forum to get more fame, or get noticed in Bollywood. This was rather amusing as I am at an age and place in my life where there is no desire, or chance, to be cast in movies. It was simply ridiculous.

What disappointed me most, however, was that most of the criticism I was getting was from my own gender. Women were outraged at what I had done, blaming me for exposing them.

Some people were so infuriated that they threatened to have me thrown out of my country. I am a woman, and any issue related to my gender has no nationality.

I was not trying to promote a Hindi film, as many have suggested; I was trying to raise awareness about an issue which, if you think about it, should not even be an ‘issue’.

Period is a ‘daleel’ (proof) of a complete woman. It is a blessing which makes women whole, allows us to give life. It is a time where women get to rest and are taken care of. That’s why it’s called a ‘period’, isn’t it? So is everyone ashamed of being a complete woman, or denying it? I’m honestly confused.

Menstruation is a natural, biological process that takes place in half of the human population. Instead of realising this, people were linking my post to sex. They said that if I had the audacity to post a picture of a pad, I should post pictures of other acts, like the one mentioned above, too. This left me shocked. How does something like a pad have anything to do with sex?

Furthermore, another issue that arose and that I really want to address is that when there was nothing else left to say, most of the people resorted to attacking my age. Only in the subcontinent is a woman, especially one involved in show business, ridiculed for being old. It seems to me that being old is a crime, and if you’re involved in the industry, you’re done. You’re ridiculed and judged for everything you do. You are not allowed to look good, dress up or party. And if you do, you’re admonished with phrases such as “Buddhi, sharam nahi aati?” (you old woman, do you have no shame?)

They mocked me, claiming that I had probably gone through menopause and should have posted this article before. Well, sorry to disappoint, but my time hasn’t come yet. And when it does, I will accept it with honour and will try my best to raise awareness about that as well.

Amidst the backlash, however, I did have a lot of support from friends, family and the public. One particular woman that I know would have joined me was our tigress, the late Asma Jahangir. So I did what she would have done — consider it a tribute to her, to womanhood and women resilience.

Overall, I’ve realised that there’s still a long way to go before the male-dominated society in Pakistan changes, and to do that, we, especially women, will have to stand together. In the end, good luck to the film Padman. Sending my best wishes from Pakistan.

Iffat Omar is a former Pakistani model, TV actor, director and show host.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Nothing wrong with periods and pads! But to pose with a sanitary pad …. not really in good taste and that’s all there is to it.

  2. Are they really so mentally incapacitated that they’re going to condemn a woman over a pad? Does everything pertaining to females scare them? It’s 2018! Come out of your caves!

  3. I admire your guts and your ability to stand up for, and help dissipate, this entire, totally unacceptable, proposition.

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