What We Want Is A Bleeding Girl

By Garima Kushwaha:

A bleeding bride and a bleeding daughter-in-law is what everyone wants – a girl who has been bleeding month after month, for years. It is not uncommon to hear about cases of divorce on the basis of the infertility of the female partner in a relationship, discarding her as ‘useless’.

She is useful and worth marrying only if she is fertile and capable of bearing kids. Many girls in our society are not just discriminated against based on caste and race, but also on the basis of whether they are bleeding or not. It is in fact a bigger concern than caste/creed that many girls are burdened with. This problem starts surfacing only after two individuals commit to each other in front of the whole world and it is not just the society at large but often husbands themselves who start blaming women for not being able to conceive children.

If girls have period problems or irregular menstrual cycles, it is considered as an act of offence if not disclosed before marriage. Note that in the very same world, talking about periods is not socially accepted.

menstrual taboo india

If it is true that a woman is complete only when she is a mother then why should I hide when I bleed every month? Why do I feel ashamed or dirty when my body is gearing itself towards becoming a mother? If bearing a child is much desired, then why don’t the prospective grooms and his families ask about menstruation cycle histories instead of one’s biodata/educational qualifications? Maybe, women should present how ‘well’ they menstruate or provide their gynaecology reports as a proof of their fertility! It is ironic that even girls wait for their periods to come every month on time but don’t/can’t talk about it. Instead, girls should be proud and happy that they are ‘complete individuals’ in conformance to societal standards.

I am sad to see that our culture has made women’s fertility her identity. You meet a middle-aged woman and a gentle conversation pretty much always ends up in one asking about motherhood and how many kids she has. If she responds saying she has none, an awkward silence/vibe prevails. A professionally successful woman who has achieved a great rewarding career but who has no kids is often shunned, assuming that her success came at the expense of her motherhood.

However, the ones who can balance both motherhood and a professional career are like walking gods amongst us. This is a wrong parameter with which we gauge women in our society. Is motherhood only about bearing kids? I believe that we were mothers when we cried and mourned for the kids who died in the terrorist attack in Pakistan; we were mothers when we helped a child who fell down while running in the park; we are mothers when we take our dog out every day for a walk.

Being a mother is providing unconditional love and it can be done in many ways. We forget that Mother Teresa did not have her own kids but her life is still considered a successful life and indeed we still call her ‘Mother’. Then why do we still believe that girls are born to reproduce and that none of their other achievements can become their identity towards proving that they lead successful lives?

We need to understand that the taboo associated with menstruation is not just about openly talking about it, but also about how it is imposed as a prerequisite necessity for girls. It is an issue of social change in a culture where fertility is much highly valued and emphasised than actually required. It cannot only lead to chronic depression in women but also strain their marital relationships and even relationships with their families, which is equally emotionally devastating.

Menstruation, in fact, is a kind of paradoxical concept that is desired so much in our society for various reasons, but is also recognised as a shameful topic to talk about. On one hand, we as a society want women to menstruate for the sake of motherhood and on the other, we shun them when they are menstruating and stop them from entering the kitchen and treat them as untouchables. So as a society, we should solve this conundrum of menstruation first and deal with all its related myths and perspectives after. Sane or bane? First decide and then hide.

This post was originally published here on Menstrupedia.
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A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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