MENSTRUATION: A TABOO IN 21ST CENTURY

Menstruation marks the onset of adolescence in girls. A girl’s body undergoes several changes during this phase. Menarche or the first menstruation usually begins between the age of 11-15 years. It also embarks the beginning of maturity of the female reproductive organs. It is the phenomenon in which the lining of the uterus, resulting in bleeding from the vagina. Menstruation is a beautiful natural process in a woman’s life. Yet, many taboos still revolve around it. These are because of inaccurate, inadequate or incomplete knowledge about menstruation. It is always surrounded by secrecy and myths in many societies. Will we ever get over these taboos? Let us take a glance at the situation in India.

MYTHS RELATED TO MENSTRUATION

In India, taboos related to menstruation still prevail at a large scale. Even in 2020, girls aren’t allowed to talk about periods. They cannot mention it not only in front of males but in front of anyone. Most of the students get introduced to the phenomena of menstruation in class 8. The silence in the class and the disgust on the faces of students tells us a lot about the situation in our country.

Menstruation is still considered as dirty and impure. Cultural norms, parental influence, personal- preference and socio-economic pressures affect menstrual hygiene practices. 

 This social stigma is especially prominent in rural areas. Women are not permitted to engage in household works and not allowed to enter the kitchen. They are not allowed to pray and enter temples when on periods. In Hindu belief, it is always believed that a woman must be “purified” before returning to her daily chores. Some believe,     consuming curd, tamarind and pickles will disturb the menstrual flow. Some even view it as a disease and isolate those undergoing it. Some girls even to believe that exercising during periods may result in excess bleeding. There seems to be no logic and scientific reasoning behind the same. In reality, doctors say that exercising may relieve bloating and cramps. It also releases serotonin, making one feel happy. These taboos have led girls to associate their bodies with a curse and impure.

IMPACT OF MENSTRUATION MYTHS ON A WOMAN’S LIFE

The prevalence of these taboos have affected women’s emotional and mental state. Not only this but it also affects their lifestyle and health. Over 23% of girls drop out of school when they begin menstruating, in India. The main reason behind this is lack of clean toilets in school and access to sanitary products. 71% are unaware of periods until they get it themselves. Parents rarely prepare their daughters for something is set to happen. This unpreparedness leads to anxiety and fear. According to a study, only 35% of women use sanitary pads in India. The rest are dependent on old rags, ash, mud, soil and leaves. From an early stage in life, girls learn to tolerate mental and physical pain. This makes it difficult for them to reach out to others for help during periods. These unhealthy menstruation practices have a direct impact on reproductive health. Further deteriorating their health in the long run.

POSSIBLE STRATEGIES TO COMBAT THESE MYTHS

First and foremost, educating the girls from the very beginning is very important. These taboos still exist mainly because of lack of education. Awareness needs to be raised not only among girls but each human being. Sanitary products are sold at prices that are not affordable to everyone. Low-cost sanitary pads can be made and sold locally, especially in rural and slum areas. The National Rural Health Mission aims to provide low-cost sanitary pads to 1.5 crore adolescent girls. This scheme is yet in its pilot phase and needs more implementation. Men also need to be made aware of menstruation. They need to be sensitive about these issues and help to combat the disbeliefs. It is important for them to understand it and support all the women in their lives. Health workers and Anganwadi workers should be sensitised and involved in spreading awareness. Arunachalam Muruganantham, the real Padman of India is one such person who challenged the stereotypes. He not only gave women the opportunity to become entrepreneurs but also helped change the social outlook. Women and girls need to understand that they have the power to procreate because of this virtue. 

No girl or women should feel ashamed of bleeding every month. In the 21st century, where women are reaching new heights, they should not be pulled down because of this natural phenomenon. Today we talk about women empowerment but make women feel insecure about their bodies. Social media is accessible to almost everyone. This platform can help in raising awareness and showing support. It’s high time we stop judging and discriminating and start engaging in meaningful conversations about periods. Next time you hear the word “period”, don’t feel uncomfortable and talk about it openly. Starting to bring a change now will only help the generations to come.

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