I care about periods because so many people avoid talking about them,
but it's something natural that happens all the time. Why is something normal so heavily stigmatized?
I care about periods because menstruation plays such a large role in my life, yet there are so few spaces that encourage people to talk about something that happens every month for half the population.
I care about periods because I care about my health and the health of other menstruators. Deep within me I’ve always wanted to challenge this stigma surrounding periods, but to put it simply, I just never knew how or if anyone even thought this was a real issue.
Menstruation a natural phenomenon unique to girls. But in India, the topic has been a taboo until date.
This has always been surrounded by secrecy and myths in many societies.
Very few cultures across the world have acknowledged that menstruation is a natural phenomenon.
With the evolution of these cultures, there has not been any significant change in people’s attitudes towards menstruation. Menstruation has always been surrounded by taboos and myths that exclude women from many aspects of socio-cultural life. One belief that’s usually common across the different narratives on menstrual blood is that it is very powerful. Whether this power is positive or negative, it results in excluding women for a certain period of time from everyone and everything around. This exclusion is mostly without the choice of the women, as they are forced to buy into a certain narrative on menstrual blood at an early age, without the freedom to question it.
A large majority of women consider their bodies as impure/unclean during the time of menstruation.
They are prohibited from going into temples, mosques, and gurudwaras and they are not supposed to touch any holy book. They can not touch utensils or even pickles.They can not get inside the kitchen.
Not entering the “puja” room is the major restriction among urban girls whereas, not entering the kitchen is the main restriction among the rural girls during menstruation
Girls dropped out of school after they start menstruating in few part of the country. Women in rural communities have very little knowledge about menstrual health. They resist using sanitary napkin because it is difficult to dispose them off. They fear it might fall into the hands of someone who can use black magic against them. Working women in their workplace also suffer from menstrual taboos. The root of almost every perception seems to be patriarchy.
Still today in the Kamakhya temple of Assam and in parts of Orissa the rituals of the menstruation of the goddess are celebrated during the monsoon season.
In many cultures, the menstrual cycle was seen as a gift and when a girl would menstruate for the first time, it would be celebrated in public. But this again is a problematic view as the menstrual cycle was seen as a boon for reproduction. Even when people celebrated it, they had a reductionist view that a woman’s ultimate goal in life is reproduction.
Are menstruation taboos the cause of leading menstrual health problems in India?
Close to 70% per cent of Indian women risk getting severe infection, at times causing death, due to poverty, ignorance and shame attached to their menstruation cycle. Taboos about menstruation present in many societies impact on girls’ and women's emotional state, mentality and lifestyle and most importantly, health. Every cycle has been accompanied by painful cramps, mood swings, bad breakouts, and severe headaches.
A girl’s relationship with her menstrual blood, something that every woman in a certain age bracket has every month, should be something left to her discretion alone. Whether she chooses to celebrate it, use it as a time to relax and not to do the daily chores, or carry on like it was just another day, should be her choice alone.
Denying young girls an opportunity to question, debate and make their own opinion on something as personal as menstrual blood, is denying them a choice to engage with their bodies on their terms. It is taking away a right to ask questions that affects their gender identity.
As we all begin to talk about periods and the topic becomes more welcomed into everyday discussion,
then people will also start to realize how much change there needs to be surrounding the education and policies relating to periods.