Rani, a 15-year old girl of Kolkata, looked at a green colored packet and wondered what it is. Rani was a domestic help of that house. She knew that the daughter of her mistress was on period. But did not understand the relationship between a packet of sanitary napkins and periods. She never used it. Rani is not the only one in this country, 70% of women in India can not afford sanitary napkins.
Knowledge of menstruation:
In a paper named “Menstrual Health in India, Landscape analysis” sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, detailed research menstrual health was published. The paper noted that nearly 355 million menstruation women and girls are there in India. But 71% of the girls in India have no knowledge of menstruation before their first period.
A taboo regarding menstruation is still very prominent in Indian society. This taboo comes from generations. Menstruation is considered as something dirty in India. With this taboo, comes lack of infrastructure. At the end of the day, girls get affected tremendously.
The research showed that 40% of all government schools lacked a functioning common toilet and another 40% lacked a separate toilet for girls.
Families try to avoid discussing the facts of menstruation and that affects the children very much. At very early age after they start menstruating, they suffer from depression due to not understanding what is happening with them.
Taboo and religious factors:
In India menstruation has a connection with religion. In certain religion it is practiced that a girl should not visit a temple while menstruating. These ideas are so prominent that still today in some of the religious places menstruating women are not allowed.
In the discussions and observations, we always fail to understand that, it is a biological phenomena and it has no contradiction with any religion. Most of the women in our country still use ash, sand, hay, paper or clothes in the time of menstruation.
Some of the NGOs are working for menstrual health in India but there is still a lack of infrastructure to deal the issue. The sanitary napkins are mostly produced by big companies and they are really costly.
Government never took a decision to make these napkins tax free and available to everyone. In the modern age of technology when we discuss about digital India then we lack a basic infrastructure to deal menstrual health.
I am a man and my experience with menstruation:
I am an only child of my family. We never discussed about menstruation in childhood. I have studied in a boy’s school and I never had an idea of this before I joined college. When I first heard about periods and came to know that girls bleed every month for a certain time. It was a wonder to me.
I started reading up about this and got the knowledge. To know more about menstruation, I have discussed with friends, I have asked about there experiences.
I still remember when I was asking about this to one my friends, she was explaining everything to me but also asked that why am I so interested. I replied, what is wrong in knowing. She said that I never saw a guy asking these questions to me.
Yes it is true, I have discussed about menstruation with my male friends and they were never interested in the topic. It was always something dirty to them. I never understood that why we feel like this. I have talked to friend who have sisters but still carry the same taboo with menstruation.
It is not a “girl” thing. It is a fact of the world and this nature. Till the time we will not be easy with discussing this freely, we will never improve. It is not only about the government or families or society or religion but also it is about us to realize that it is ok that girls menstruate. It is natural.