Menstruation and Menstrual Hygiene-A Subject Best Swept Under The Rug
Menstruation is still a subject less talked about, in every section of society. Periods have long been associated with dirt, disgust, shame and some might even say fear. The social stigma and age-old unfounded myths attached to it can affect detrimentally both physically and psychologically for a young girl transitioning into womanhood. Even today in some communities, women are banished to sheds, during their period because of so-called “impurity” during menstruation, despite the ancient practice being outlawed.
The Situation Today
It is unfortunate that Menstruation is overwhelmingly considered the secret women’s business. Young girls are taught from a young age, they have to manage it privately and discreetly. This has resulted in negligible discussion on the subject in families leading to minimum information sharing towards the need of menstrual hygiene system in vast sections of the society. A large number of adolescent girls and women particularly in rural India are still weighed down by unfounded taboos that surround menarche and the subsequent management of the menstruation cycle.
How Well Is She Prepared?
The silence and shame and constant ignorance towards this natural phenomenon have caused the severe problem, constantly harming the health and dignity of women. Lack of knowledge about the process of menstruation and hygiene coupled with a large population lying in the low per capita income group ends up in shocking statistics in India. Based on official studies, 60% of girls miss school on account of menstruation.
A lot of girls are even forced to use natural materials like mud, cow-dung, ashes, newspaper, husk sand and dried leaves to aid absorption when they menstruate. These unhygienic materials put women at risk of reproductive tract infections leading to deadly diseases like cervical cancer.
The Changing Scenario
The Silver Lining is that Awareness is on the rise and society is becoming increasingly conscious of the need to empower Women by emancipating them from unscientific beliefs about Menstruation. The taboo around menstruation has started to be seen as a threat to health and many people are willing to break this silence. Social media and information technology have also contributed to opening up spaces for dialoguing over menstrual taboos and in spreading awareness and sensitivity about the scale of the issue.
In the exploration of the origins and basis of menstrual taboo, looking at the perception of the menstrual cycle in different cultures and religions, the roots of almost every perception seems to be “Patriarchy”. Therefore the origin of the taboo certainly seems to be the discrimination that women have faced from primitive times. There is an institutionalized basis for these taboos to exercise control and authority over women.
Let’s Begin To Upgrade Ourselves
Overcoming this taboo is a point of contention among feminists. The primary argument behind this is the most important question, “If Menstruation is normal, there is no reason the topic should be avoided”. It is not only girls who need to grow about menstruation, but society as a whole. Multi-sectoral approaches are needed in this regard. Addressing the issue in a more holistic way by linking the physical infrastructure, water, and sanitation projects to health education and reproductive health programs is a mandate.
It’s high time we break the taboo and encourage conversations about periods, that surrounds the natural biological functions of the female body. While awareness is still very low, mothers do want and expect their adolescent daughters to be empowered with knowledge. The first step is to create a shift with this type of audience. The definite need of the hour is the training of peer educators, as young girls are most comfortable talking to their friends. With an aim to change mindsets, sparks conversations and start an urban dialogue to stir conversations around the menstrual cycle, allow Women to Embrace Periods.