Menstruation – Still a Taboo?

The roots of period shaming

Many old cultures and texts considered menstruation impure. These views date back thousands of years and have formed generations of cultural disgrace. Discrimination counter to menstruating women is prevalent in India, where periods have long been a taboo and considered unclean. They are often eliminated from societal and spiritual events, deprived of entering into religious places and even kept out of kitchens.

The absence of discussion about menses, according to one study, 71% of pubertal girls in India are ignorant of menstruation until they get it themselves. Campaigners say it shows that parents hardly prepare their daughters for something they know is very certain to occur. And this unpreparedness leads to so much unavoidable fear and anxiety. The trouble in accessing sanitary pads is another main issue. India cancelled a 12% tax on sanitary products in 2018 after months of campaigning by activists. Campaigners had debated over the matter of “menstrual hygiene products are not a luxury and periods are not a choice that a woman could simply opt out of. However, tax exception is only a minor step towards a much longer journey of making menstrual health and hygiene an approachable reality for every woman in the country.

What is the menstruation taboo?

The menstruation taboo ranges to various parts of a woman’s body structure and sexuality, but it principally includes the shame and disgrace around discussing and caring for menstrual needs. This taboo often results into the prohibiting of women from community and family activities. The taboo also makes people feel like the topic of menses is awkward and embarrassing to discuss in some societies. This often results in women using code words or slang to mention periods.

In the last two centuries, intellectuals, writers, and psychologists have made an effort to state what exactly has contributed to taboos around periods. Sigmund Freud supposed that the fear of blood was one reason behind the taboos, another being that it was related with a woman’s fear of losing her virginity. Twentieth-century author Allan Coult said that rude man had an unconscious wish to avoid the hostile effects menstruation had on “organic materials.” According to Coult, taboos grew as a way to manage with periods. Whatever the reason behind these stigmas, menstruation taboos have actual and serious effects on the health, education, safety, and happiness of women.

Menstruation in India

Menstruation in India is broadly considered unclean and impure. An absence of sanitary products makes periods more of a load in India. In fact, 88 percent of women in India still rely on cloths, rags, hay, ash, and even leaves to manage their periods. Isn’t that shameful? When their menstruation instigates for the first time, over 23 percent of girls in India drop out of school. Those who continue miss an average of five days of school per month because of their menses. Women’s education can have a huge impact on economic growth, which means menstruation taboo can affect the prosperity of a country.