Menstruation cycle is the beginning of a new phase in the life of a woman and preferably an important one at it. This is a phase of transitioning from a girl to a fully grown woman, and a transitioning woman faces many challenges including changing needs of body and different appearances but what becomes the most significant challenge is the stigma attached to it and various myths and lies surrounding us spreading false information. The start of the menstrual cycle marks a significant event in a girl’s life. On an average when a girl reaches the menstrual cycle, she is about 12-14 years old, and for some, this number is a little higher and by that time most of the girls remain clueless about this phenomenon. In the Indian education system, the theoretical approach is taken to teach students, and the long lost topic of practical life is left behind. In India, the teachers or the whole schooling system never emphasized the vitality of sex-education and other aspects relating to reproductive health, and children are left with the internet and their devices to figure out the science. India, a country where child marriage was a tradition once, to talk about reproductive health is of vital importance as the reproductive process begins in the early years of age. Also, read 13 Yoga poses to ease the Premenstrual syndromes Symptoms.
We have seen on television or in movies that when children sometimes even toddlers ask their parents about their birth, the parents decide to take a high road and avoid having The Talk by merely stating the age of innocence of the children as an excuse but if the pattern is analyzed this behaviour carefully is shown even when the child becomes an adult, and The Talk becomes inevitable. The children rely heavily on false information or half concocted facts available on the internet or much readily accessible sources. Besides that in some other parts of the country when the mothers as the gender roles are defined discuss the intricacies of the menstrual cycle with her daughter, it is mostly apprising her of the restrictions and limitations which she is bound by while it is that time of the month. It is so stigmatized that the mother even advises the daughter to stay away from the other members of the family as the myths say that during the menstrual cycle, the body releases such harmful radiation that it could be fatal.
Having The Talk with children is very important to burst such myths and to put an end to the spread of misinformation. Now the question of as to when parents or we should say the mother should talk about menstruation and other aspects of reproductive health (here we assume the mother should speak because as internalized as the gender roles in the society that many times it is considered that when it comes to children, the mother has dominion over matters relating to daughter and father deals with the son, however matters of great importance are always dealt with by father only regardless of the gender of the child). It is good to share the information of menstruation and other reproductive systems with the children because by doing this parents can control the information which is being provided and make sure that the right information is being communicated in order to eliminate the chances of any misinformation being spread. We all know that when the children do not get answers to their questions from the parents, they seek answers from their friends. Turning to an elder sister might also be an option.
Just like parental control on the internet and surfing online are essential to filter out the wrong things, it is also vital that parents shed a positive light on the process of menstruation because if it is presented as a wrong thing, then such a negative image can stay for a long time. There are so many myths associated with the process of menstruation, and we as agents of society play an important role in internalizing these myths. The story of menstruation begins with it paving the path of women to motherhood. Hence in order for the blessing to bear a new life to be fulfilled, women have to go through the menstrual cycle. Still, in the present times, the stigmas attached to it have completely changed the idea of menstruation as a blessing or something pure, but it has become a curse for women. Gender stereotyping is a normal phenomenon these days, and under the garb of menstruation, women are being stereotyped based on their gender. The scientific studies reveal that during menstruation, there is a release of many hormones which also lead to possible behaviour changes. In our society whenever any reference has to be made to the menstrual cycle of a woman it is referred to as “that time of the month”, and an expression of emotions such as anger is interpreted as a hormonal rant. Popular phrases that are used not only by men but few women as well include it must be that time of the month or mood swings because she is on her period. It is because of such stigma that women are not taken seriously. When they show anger, it is always ignored as a hormonal rant which is a normal phenomenon for women during their periods.
The society reeks of the stigma attached to period blood which is often termed as dirty blood and men are supposed to shy away from normal biological functioning. The myths surrounding menstruation differ based on religion, culture, and societal structures. In some religious beliefs or perceptions, menstruation is celebrated to mark the beginning of the journey of womanhood. However, that does not stop them from stigmatizing it and labelling it as inappropriate for men to talk about or even mention. It is being told to us since forever that period blood is dirty and full of toxins and all the nasty things our bodies do not require. Hence it is not suitable for human health, and when a person is around a menstruating woman, such toxins will harm the person. This is a myth that needs to be busted because not only it is scientifically incorrect, it also leads to unjustifiable discrimination often taking another form of untouchability practised against menstruating women, and such a practice has been followed by a Hindu temple of Sabrimala located in Kerala state. The notion of menstruating women being unclean is highly discriminatory and defies the purpose of all the social reform movements. The idea of women’s womb being sacrosanct for having the ability to nurture another human life is turned upside down when menstruation is treated as a curse when it enables women to bear children.
The concept of keeping women in isolation during their menstrual cycle was meant to give them a week’s rest while their bodies suffered blood loss, but over the years this isolation has been used as a tool against women. In some cultures, women are not even allowed to hold babies and enter the kitchen or common sitting areas in the house to prevent them from passing on their sickness. Besides the development of personal hygiene infrastructure, it has become easier for women to carry themselves and go on with their day to day activities without any risk of infections or danger to their health. However, lack of awareness and plethora of myths leading to webs of misinformation in the society, the access to feminine hygiene has become a tedious task as it requires dialogue or discourse about menstruation as a normal biological phenomenon which makes it all the more important for parents to discuss reproductive health with their children and not only daughters.
As discussed above, often parents find it best to ignore such topics until the talk becomes inevitable. Still, when the conversation does become inevitable, the need to address does not exist anymore. The importance of such discussion could not be stressed more, to make it easier and less awkward the parents or siblings can start with merely describing the process and ensuring that the child does not get frightened and involving a little Q&A round could prove more fruitful to burst all the myths and filter any wrong information.