The boogeyman called Female Sexuality

 Maitreyee Shukla

In the 19th century, it was ‘discovered’ that women have orgasms too. Until then, and even after that, this possibility seemed unfathomable to many. Since then it has been scientifically studied and proven too, that women have normal sexual urges, needs, and yes, orgasms too. Two centuries later, we are back to where we started!

Alankrita Shrivastava’s movie “Lipstick Under My Burkha” has won several accolades since it was premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival, including the Audience Award for best film.

As the title suggests, the protagonists in this movie are Muslim women. This in itself is a pretty progressive move for an industry which barely represents Muslim women in any capacity, let alone lead roles. What adds to the charm is that this movie is about these women trying to find freedom from their social confinements; which includes sexual freedom. However, for being “too lady oriented” and “a bit sensitive towards a section of the society”, CBFC found it unfit for certification.

Question arises, what is it about female sexuality that scares us?

As Alankrita puts it so eloquently in her article, it challenges the status quo. ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ snatches from men their plaything and gives it a life of her own. This is more than what the brittle male ego can handle.

After an overflow of criticism, Pahlaj Nihlani has defended himself by saying that it wasn’t his decision to make and that the movie hasn’t been banned, simply denied certification on ‘valid grounds’. Mr Nihlani questioned the film’s politics saying, ‘It has become fashionable to support any film that talks about women empowerment. How genuine is the film’s feminism?’

While I agree that he is not directly responsible for this whole fiasco, his statement reeks of sexism, and reflects clearly that patriarchy is so deeply ingrained that people in responsible positions are unable to get rid of their prejudices before making a decision which calls for an unbiased outlook. It is definitely not about the innuendos and sex, if it was, movies like ‘Mastizaade’ would be denied certification too! CBFC is being so blatantly hypocritical here that it is outrageous and hilarious at the same time.

Women empowerment is a real, critical issue. This movie is an important step in India’s feminist movement, and here is what Pahlaj Nihlani has to say about it:
‘We’ve no objections to women wearing lipstick under a burkha. But the film shows these women doing unmentionable things. If some sections think this is a progressive behavior, gender equality and women’s empowerment then I pity the generations to come.”

Sir, art imitates life. Women actually do those ‘unmentionable things’. Yes, it is empowerment that we can control our bodies. It is gender equality that we have a say in what ‘unmentionable things’ are done to our bodies. It is progressive that we are not treated as an object. That is the whole point of the movie!

But, of course, patriarchs like Mr. Nihlani will get that only if they were able to recognize their own privilege. The fact that he himself has made movies full of cheap innuendos and gotten away with it simply because the characters were men seems to be lost upon him.

While a lot has been said about this movie being ‘lady oriented’ we seem to be forgetting the second part. About the particular community this movie can hurt. Muslim leader have already called for boycotts and a blanket ban on this movie. There hasn’t been much outrage, no one has yet come up with a fatwa, but that may be because the CBFC already took precautions as to not hurt the sentiments of the Islamic orthodoxy, a step which has been applauded by several sections of the Muslim clergy, such as Mr. Ausaf Shameeri Khurram, chairman of The All India Muslim Tehwar Committee.

It is heartening to see the Hindu right taking care of the Islamic right, but civil code trumps religious code and freedom of speech includes the right to offend.

Muslim women have a right to don a Burkha, it is also their right to take it off. They can wear lipsticks under the Burkhas and they can show it off too. The right to study, the right to make a career, the right to choose a partner, the right to criticize Islamic, or any religious tradition, are inalienable human rights of all free beings.

It is not our problem if our existence as free human beings offends you.

It is high time the Indian society accepts that women are not passive sexual beings by nature, they have been conditioned to be that, and now, they are calling out your bullshit. Accept that we are taking the reins back.

We wear Lipsticks under our Burkhas, deal with it. 🙂











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