In my opening piece of this series, I told about the scenario of my own home when I had my first period. Living in a joint family with three male members, I was restricted to speak in a low tone about period. Even, studying in a girls’ school, I faced such things. We friends, inspired by our fellow seniors and elders, gave some funny code names to this biological phenomenon. We called it sometimes with funny cartoon characters, sometimes with alphabets. We always had period talks with our female teachers, not with male ones.
But, with age and time, we became wise and more aware about Menstruation. Being a Science students, we studied it with intricate details, and when our male tuition teacher taught us with a smart and bold attitude, it became easier to us to discuss it with an utterly ease. For the first time, we felt liberal to have period talks, without the fear of being called, ‘shameless girls.’ We found our voice to be vocal about our own body, and the monthly visitor called, ‘Period.’
Since then, nothing much has changed but yes, as now we live in a separate house and we have only one male member in our house, my father, we have been evolved more vocal about this phenomenon. My sister and I talk openly with our mom and sometimes, with dad, too. At first, dad was hesitant to talk in such an open manner suddenly. But I am a girl who suffers from monthly severe period pain. And for that reason, I visit regularly to the gynaecologist to consult my situation. I often visit there with my dad, though my dad waits for me outside the doctor’s chember. But he ask me whatever the doctor prescribe me and we talk about Menstruation in a casual mode. Thus, the scenario changed for my dad and us.
But, the scenario is same for many people around me. My neighbour uncle is an orthodox. He believes in the theory that women should not be given more freedom, they don’t need higher education. Along with, he doesn’t allow his daughters to speak about women issues in public. Not even with us! I laugh at his mentality, sometimes, I tried to make him understand. But all my attempts went in vein. His daughters still talk about Period in a low tone, sometimes in whisper note. They can’t even speak about their pain and sickness during period phase to their dad, freely. They live caged.
Such is the scenario of Menstruation Taboo in India. But in some places, we can see this scenario is changing. I will discuss it later. Now, I want to give some statistics about it here.
Many women who are on their periods are not allowed to be in the kitchen or attend ritual practices, according to a 2016 Hindustan Times report on period taboo in India. According to The Wire, many don’t believe periods are natural, while others consider them “dirty.” And 28% of girls said they do not go to school during their period because they don’t have sanitary or affordable menstrual products. This means that period stigma and a lack of access to menstrual products is leading girls to miss out on their education.
According to CNN, a 12% tax on pads was imposed in 2017 in India, highlighting how they remain inaccessible for many women. CNN reports that women resort to using potentially harmful things to catch menstrual blood, including scraps of cloth, newspaper, ash, wood shavings, and more.
Despite being a phenomenon unique to girls, this has always been surrounded by secrecy and myths in many societies. Taboos surrounding menstruation exclude women and girls from many aspects of social and cultural life. Some of these are helpful, but others have potentially harmful implications.
And all these happen for the lack of proper education, awareness and courage.
(to be continued..)