Every girl starts her menstruation cycle at the age of 11 to 14, and after that, it occurs for three to four days every month. It happens due to ovulation and is a very natural process. But, in India, there are a lot of taboos associated with the menstrual cycle of women. Women and girls are considered unholy when they are on their periods. In most parts of India, women are kept in a separate room, and their utensils are washed separately; they are not allowed to touch anything, cook food, or to do any other household work.
The temples, any place of worship or even the kitchen is off-limits. Girls develop a feeling of embarrassment and insecurity about being on periods. They are taught not to talk about it, especially not in front of any male member of the family. Secluding them from their daily routine of day to day chores doesn’t help much either, because of the taboos related to the word, menstrual hygiene, and the health of the women, especially in the rural areas is a matter of growing concern. Women are being forced to live a miserable life, because of lack of awareness, lack of resources and all the religious drama associated with the word.
They don’t have access to sanitary pads. Most women use a reusable cloth at the time of periods, and if not properly washed, it can create infections. Even worse, some women also use sand, dried leaves and ashes because of lack of other alternatives. Little girls in the tribal areas are even forced to live in cowsheds because they are presumed to be ‘unholy’ and ‘unclean’. My heart skips a beat just by the thought of it.
I understand the fact that at the time of menstruation cycle, women deserve to rest because they suffer from all sorts of pain from crams, body aches, stomach aches, and their PMS and mood swings at that time doesn’t help much either. A few decades ago, the work which women used to do at home was cumbersome like bringing heavy pots of water, farming, etc., and all these rules were created to let women rest. They added a religious edge to it so that it would be followed extensively.
Sorry to break your long-standing beliefs, but the food cooked by women on her periods is perfectly hygienic and anything they touch when on periods doesn’t become ‘unclean. I agree that women deserve the much-needed rest, but if they want to lie on their bed and rest for the whole day or do anything else that they wish to should be ultimately their choice, and nobody should be house arrested just because “it’s that time of the month”. I am myself a girl and can feel the mental and physical trauma which all the girls around the world go through, but if I have an essential class to attend, a critical Interview, or even a family get-together, should I not visit it just because I am on my periods? Not! Everybody has the right to take this decision for them.
Situations will become better when there will be more awareness about the topic when the girls do not become uncomfortable just by the mention of the word. The change will happen when we start discussing the matter with our family and friends, and the topic must not be restricted only to the female group of the society. Fathers must talk to their daughters and make them feel that it is natural and nothing to be ashamed about.
Menstrual hygiene campaigns must be organised in the rural areas so that the women over there could improve their hygiene, the standard of living and the long-lasting taboos must be broken because they are all bogus and wrong. There should be no hideousness or secrecy around the world, and sanitary pads must be made available everywhere (not hidden in black polythene bags like they always are).
I am very grateful to Mr Akshay Kumar Sir for taking up such topics and speaking openly about them. His upcoming film “PADMAN” is a great initiative to break the taboos and spread awareness about menstrual hygiene. If superstars like him say something, people follow because they look up to their heroes.
Women have more power than men can imagine. The menstrual cycle doesn’t make us “unholy”, and it is a gift bestowed upon us by God because it gives us a chance to become mothers. Appreciate the life of women and everything they go through and don’t pull them back because of old stupid taboos and beliefs. More power to women!