Periods Occur And Your Opinion About It Won’t Do Anything
Last year, a warden of a school in Uttar Pradesh was allegedly so angered at seeing a few drops of blood on the floor of the girl’s bathroom that she ordered a strip search of 70 girls and threatened to beat if the girls do not comply. This, however, is not an isolated incident. Recently, a 12-year-old girl in Tamil Nadu allegedly committed suicide after being reportedly shamed by her teacher for staining her clothes with menstrual blood in front of her class. The girl was a student of VII standard. This piece of news was reported on 30/08/2017.
It has been two months since her death and thousands of years of women menstruating and there is no reason for me to believe that we have made any progress in terms of debunking the taboo around menstruation. While you are reading this article, more than 800 million women worldwide are having a period. So, RELAX, it happens and it is not something that cannot be talked about or something that has to be kept a secret. Half the world bleeds for almost 3-5 days every month, Period.
21st century, women have reached the moon and beyond, but the one thing that hasn’t changed even after all these years is the fact that even now women are discriminated and shamed for a biological process they go through. Almost every girl has been through the ritualistic process of exclusion in which she is told that she cannot touch things, touch people, enter shrines or kitchen, how the pickle goes bad when menstruating women touch it, how the blood is impure and her body unholy.
The Exclusion Principals Implemented At Menstruation
The range of exclusion varies from the ones mentioned to extremes like sending the menstruating women to live in primitive huts without any sanitation facility for as long as they menstruate. It is mind-boggling that even today people believe in all this orthodoxy. This ignorance is not just in terms of sanitary hygiene but also in terms of awareness.
A study done by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in the year 2016 found that 50% of adolescent girls had no idea about menstruation when they first got their period. Yes, that is how serious the problem is. Imagine, a 13-year-old with blood dripping down her vagina with absolutely no idea what is going on with her body, how horrifying it can be?
All our lives we have been shamed and policed for menstruating. Nobody can forget the walk of shame one had to go through after that one spot of red appeared on that white school skirt. The taboo around menstruation is such that up until now we had television commercials selling sanitary pads showing period blood as some blue liquid. Periods have been treated as though it is some kind of disease that a woman contracts every month. I remember my school days – girls of my class could never stand up and say that they want to leave as they are menstruating, they would always use the word ‘Unwell’ or ‘sick’ to describe their situation. Women, especially young girls, are so ashamed of periods that something as simple a task as buying a sanitary pad becomes a task.
The Amount Of Secrecy And The Dearth Of Knowledge
No woman can forget that small pack of sanitary pad covered so discreetly in a black polythene bag, that it left nothing to anybody’s imagination. A country of 335 million menstruating women and still so much secrecy and taboo around periods is disturbing. We basically are not allowing 335 million individuals to be proud in their own skin.
Most of the women in India do not have the access to sanitary pads. In India, only 12% of women have the access to sanitary pads while 88% still resort to shocking alternatives like cloth, ashes and husk during menstruation. These clothes are usually dried under the beds or skirts and thus are rarely dry enough for use. Such is the dearth of education and sanitary hygiene that the chances of getting Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) in India are 70% higher. While the data reveals the sad state of women’s hygiene and sanitation, it also speaks volumes about our awareness and concern towards the issue.
It is astounding that kajal, bindi, sindoor and bangles are tax-free but sanitary pads are not. No wonder we have 88% women who cannot access sanitary pads. In a society where the prime duty of a woman is to satisfy the man in her life, the fact that bangles and sindoor (vermillion) comes tax-free does not come as a surprise. We must not forget that these things are a marker of a woman being married or to put it in a more straightforward way, she belongs to a man. We live in a society where the hygiene of a woman is secondary to her duty as a woman i.e. to belong to a man and keep him happy. No wonder that every woman has the access to Vermillion, but not to sanitary pads.
The Taboo Around Menstruation – And The Divine Intervention
The taboo around menstruation has much to do with the lack of awareness about it. Most of the women and almost all men are unaware of why women menstruate. It might sound crazy but there are people who still believe that women menstruate because God has punished them. We now have organizations and individuals who are trying their best to spread awareness about it, but we also need to start talking about it in our day to day conversations. The shame around it has to be countered and that is only possible if we normalize the idea that women menstruate. The beginning can be small, for instance by not giving excuses that we are sick and rather just accept that we are menstruating.
We can start by talking about it in our own families and friends and colleagues. Small changes do make big differences, especially in bringing about social changes. The governments should set its priorities straight, the health of a woman is more important than the kohl in her eye. The most important role here is ours, we as women have to start respecting our bodies and our existence. Women are no secondary beings and therefore do not deserve to be treated as pets.