Menstruation is a monthly biological phenomenon occurring in menstruators. It is a process as natural as digestion or respiration. Yet, worldwide, only myths and taboos envelop this subject. In India, cultural practices and patriarchal notions have boosted these discriminatory acts against women, leading to complete disregard for their needs during periods. The irony is, our society denies accepting this process but rejoices so much on its outcome.
In most Indian households, menstruating girls and women are not allowed to enter temples and kitchens, and sometimes, are also totally isolated. Any conversation around periods is hushed by women themselves, to ensure the males in the house ‘don’t get to know’. It results in young boys growing into men who lack the much-needed understanding, awareness and sensitivity towards the issue, and women. Consequently, men often become too awkward or uncomfortable to fathom this process because society ‘shielded’ them from the subject for too long. Nevertheless, men fail to empathise with women on periods.
The statistics also look very disturbing. Less than 20% of menstruating girls and women in rural India have access to sanitary napkins. This figure climbs up for urban women to only 50%. But the situation becomes even grimmer. Along with the lack of access to such resources, there is also a lack of awareness and acceptance. Worryingly, more than 70% of Indian girls are not aware of menstruation before its onset. With most finding the process shameful and embarrassing, they treat it as a secret about which everyone knows, but no one talks.
Nevertheless, in such dire situations, most Indian women see sanitary napkins as their only menstrual product option. A far-reaching consequence of this choice is the piling up of waste which has detrimental health and environmental effects. Even most tampons aren’t sustainable. Hence, to curb this, we only require to make small, smart shifts in our choices. Cost-effective products like menstrual cups and reusable sanitary napkins can reduce period waste significantly. Along with all this, it is also necessary to schedule
regular gynaecological sessions to ensure healthy living.
So, this Menstrual Hygiene Day, pledge to break the silence around menstruation. Strike conversations with the other genders. Educate yourself and others. Advocate menstrual health for all. Switch to sustainable products that don’t harm the environment. A wave of change will strike only when we educate all genders.