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Pooja Bhatt speaking about alcoholism publicly is the kind of conversations we need to destigmatise the illness called addiction.
Filmmaker and actress Pooja Bhatt took to Twitter on earlier this week to share the happy news of having been sober for four years now. She expressed relief and gratitude for being able to remain ‘true, vulnerable, strong’ over the years.
Alcoholism is an illness that plagues a large section of the population all over the world. And it can be treated. What inhibits individuals, particularly women, from reaching out is the taboo surrounding alcohol and drug abuse and the judgements society passes.
Pooja Bhatt sharing her experience on a public platform is a great step towards normalisation of the treatment procedures.
India is home to over six crore alcohol addicts, a significant percentage of which is women. According to a study published in the Lancet journal, between 2010 and 2017, India’s alcohol consumption has increased by 38 percent. But only about 3 percent of the people with drinking problems find their way to treatment.
According to a survey in 2019, women’s consumption of alcohol is on the rise in Delhi. The survey says that the women’s alcohol market is expected to grow by another 25 percent in the next five years.
With changing times, an increased number of women, find themselves getting better acquainted with the fast-moving and competitive life in a capitalist structure. These liberal spaces are comparatively more equal than a traditional setting and therefore, women’s drinking is more normalised.
But what women have been denied is equal access to the treatment facilities, as well. Be it for alcohol or drugs, the percentage of women reaching out for assistance with their addiction is dismal.
The reason behind it is the relegation of women as second-class citizens of this patriarchal society. Lack of family support makes matters worse. Socially, a woman who consumes alcohol or abuses drugs is judged and vilified. And as was seen in the ‘drugs scandal’ in the second half of this year, women are also harassed by public authorities and media based on mere rumours.
The taboo is also furthered by men like Ram Gopal Verma, who publicly shame women for drinking and even go as far as to support violence against women. He made an outrageous comment in the early days of the lockdown saying women who drink should not complain about domestic violence. This mentality of stoking criminal activities against women for breaking out of conventional patriarchal logic is then seen reflected in huge sections of the masses.
These double standards in the treatment of male and female drugs or alcohol addicts, inhibit women from reaching out and seeking help. When popular personalities publicly talk about their fight with addiction, it opens doors for numerous other women to follow suit. These taboos can be fought only by refusing to bog down under pressure, as Pooja Bhatt exemplified.
Picture credits: Pooja Bhatt’s Twitter
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An undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional
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