A crime, a taboo, a bad omen? No, we are not talking about a murder or theft, rather, a perfectly innocent and normal monthly phenomenon that every woman goes through. Yes we’re talking about menstruation which is sadly, till date, looked upon as a taboo or sin in many parts of the society. On World Menstrual Hygiene Day today (May 28), let’s openly address this issue because it’s high time!
No Pride, Only Prejudice
While most of young India is very supportive and progressive about women and periods, a large section of the society is still ancient and old-school in their mentality. It’s true–women, even in the cities, are told not to enter temple premises or join any religious ceremony if they’re on their period (surely the Gods didn’t make this rule!).
In smaller towns and villages the taboo is even stronger. It’s an utter disgust to know that those very people who find it okay to poop in the open find it not okay for a woman to shed some blood, which by the way, is nature’s unique method to help balance the hormones and help the female body produce another human being.
Let’s Talk History
I want to take you back by a few centuries. Women on their period were strictly not allowed in temples and kitchens, were given separate food and utensils, were forbidden from having sex and were asked to sleep on a rug on the floor or sleep outside the house. All this without any logic or reasoning. Now the unfortunate part is that it’s 2017, and some women are still subject to this hogwash.
As Diya Chhabra, 24, a budding baker puts it, “I’m not allowed to touch pickle during those five days on the grounds that it may spoil it! I’m a professional cook and they want me not to touch food items? This sounds funny to me, but to them it’s a ‘norm’. A norm that tells you to quit your work for 4-5 days without any valid reason.”
Let’s discuss the origin of such myths (well we believe it to be a myth). There is a lot of involvement of ancient Indian science, energies of the body and astrology in setting the rules for a menstruating woman. Ayurveda, which is a 7,000 year old science, considers menstruation to be a part of the function of doshas (vata, pitta and kapha or air, fire and water energies defined as doshas). It defines the menstrual cycle as an opportunity for a woman to get rid of her doshas, which helps in female longevity and prepares the body for pregnancy. Yes, Ayurveda suggested that some foods be avoided during menstruation but only to help a women purify her body and make it stronger. Unfortunately, our ancestors used or rather misused this information to make ridiculous norms and suppress women.
Bring The Change
We are not our ancestors, we’re young India and pride ourselves on being progressive and modern, right? Why then is the sanitary napkin carried around like a radioactive product that has to be put under several covers? Why are we embarrassed to openly talk about menstruation? It’s just a natural phenomenon, just like peeing!
Geetika Aggarwal, 27-year-old interior designer says, “There was a kind of celebration at my house when I first got down. My mom spoke about it happily at home and informed her mom. But later on, she told me not to mention it to anyone, not to play, not to be very active (during that time of the month). If my body allows it then why not, I asked. I hope the new generation moms don’t ask such questions.” We hope so too, Geetika!
Let’s start with a few changes. The next time you go to a chemist, don’t feel shy asking for sanitary pads and yes, don’t ask for that opaque polybag as a mandatory action. It’s just a sanitary pad, be cool about it. Tell yourself that no one has the right to make you do things according to their will (which is stuck in last to last century may be), and feel free to cook, to worship or to be anywhere that you want to be. And please tell the men around you to grow up–the boss who thinks girls have a permanent excuse in the name of PMS, or to the friend who doesn’t want to sit beside you. If anything, men need to be more sensitive and caring towards women who have periods.
Another very important reason to break the taboo is to create awareness about menstruation and women’s health. That’s one of the aims of Menstrual Hygiene Day. Women in India are skeptical or unsure about openly discussing menstrual health because of all the taboos surrounding it. The scary fact is that more than 80% of women in India suffer from menstruation-related issues be it hormonal imbalance, PCOS or something as serious as endometriosis. But they’re scared to talk about it–that’s a real shame!
On one hand, we have advertisements screaming that girls should totally be themselves and not let periods stop them from doing anything. On the other hand, some sections of the society tell them to give up and sit at home. Let’s see who wins.
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar