Menstrual hygiene: A challenging development issue
The major reasons behind menstruation still being a taboo in the Indian society are illiteracy, poverty and lack of awareness.
WHAT IS MENSTRUATIONS?
The blood coming out from vagina normally occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle called menstruation or periods. Every month, our body prepares for pregnancy. The uterus, or womb, sheds its lining in case of no pregnancy . The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus. We can say that periods are the onset of puberty in girls. During this time a girl goes through several physical and psychological changes in her body. It is associated with bleeding along with stomach ache , nausea as well as mood swings.
After the onset of puberty , it brings various rules, restrictions, isolation and changed expectations in the girls life by the society. These changes in attitude towards girls such as restrictions on their self expressions, schooling, mobility and freedom has far reaching consequences on the mindset of women.
MENSTRUATION- A TABOO
In the Indian society menstruation is still considered as a taboo. Till now, adolescent girls are not given proper information about menstruation. People create major hurdles in educating girls about menstrual hygiene.
Mothers also don’t talk with their daughters about this topic because they feel shy while expressing the terms. Another reason they don’t discuss this topic is because most of them lack scientific knowledge on puberty and menstruation.
Most of the people in India, especially the girls are illiterate. This is one of the reasons for which menstruation is still a relevant taboo in our Indian society. The other important reasons are poverty and lack of awareness about menstrual health and hygiene.
Very less number (less than 18 percent) of Indian women use sanitary pads.
According to the latest National Family and Health Survey 58 per cent of young Indian women (15-24 years) use a hygienic method of protection (mostly sanitary pads) which is a significant increase from the 12 percent using pads in 2010. This is a consequence of greater attention to menstrual hygiene management over the past few years in India. This not only prevails in the Indian society but is a global issue.
On a global level, at least 500 million women and girls lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. The lack in appropriate information on sanitation and hygiene facilities, especially in public places like schools, workplaces or health centres can pose a major obstacle to women and girls.
In many families women’s freedom is still in the hands of patriarchal discourse. With the evolution of these cultures, there has not been any significant change in people’s attitudes and mentality towards menstruation.
In some families menstruation is still denoted as an unclean or embarrassing thing. For them even mentioning menstruation in public or private places is embarrassing. Most girls feel embarrassed to go to a medical store to buy sanitary pads for them. There are also many girls who cannot afford to buy the Sanitary Napkins.
Most of the girls in financially unprivileged families drop out of school when they begin to menstruate. More than 77 percent of girls and women in India use an old cloth, which is often reused, ashes, newspapers, dried leaves and husk sand during periods.
During these periods women are not allowed to participate in day-to-day activities. They are not allowed to enter the house or carry in with their household chores. They are even restricted from entering the kitchens. They are restricted from entering the temple. They are not even allowed to any sacred places and also not allowed to perform any rituals. They are restricted from doing all these works because they think that a menstruating woman is impure and everything she touches turns impure or bad. They think after menstruation a woman must be purified before entering the house or other places.
While menstruating, a woman goes through several psychological trauma and mood swings . During this time they should be given proper care but instead they are treated poorly by the society.
To prevent the troubles faced by the menstruating women in our society, we must give them proper education about menstrual health and hygiene, provide financial support or distribute sanitary napkins to the unprivileged women so that they don’t have to suffer the ill fate.