Menstruation is considered unhygienic and impure in India. There are different taboos surrounding it which are justified by absurd and unscientific logic. Scientific reasons behind menstruation are often overlooked.
When I started menstruating, I was unaware of what it meant. Why was I bleeding? Why wasn’t I allowed to do certain things while on periods? I started questioning a lot of things but in India, even uttering the word ‘periods’ is treated like a crime. My questions were never answered. Each and every person in the society started to say I was rebellious and insensible.
There were a lot of taboos I had to follow. I was told things like: “Don’t go inside the temple”, “Don’t sit there”, “Don’t go inside the kitchen”, “You are impure” etc. We are even restricted from eating certain things. And if I questioned the logic behind such actions, there was just one answer: “Don’t you feel dirty?”
Menstrual hygiene is not even considered an issue. Some girls and women use clothes, dried grass and even plastic or jute bags, which is not at all hygienic. They have to use these because firstly, many of them don’t know about menstrual hygiene or they shy away from the fact. Second, some girls and women can’t purchase sanitary napkins as they are too costly.
I was provided with sanitary napkins but the domestic workers in my home didn’t know anything about menstrual hygiene. When I tried to tell them about it, they found it weird, costly and absurd. It was really hard for me to teach them that it is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens every month and we can’t deny it – acceptance is the only way to eradicate the taboo surrounding the topic. Yes, we bleed and we are proud to bleed. Spreading awareness and educating girls and women about menstrual hygiene is necessary.
Every school must have sex education classes where girls can question the teachers and not just remain silent. It’s not just the responsibility of NGOs and women but of each and every citizen of India to spread awareness. Clicking pictures holding sanitary napkins is not enough. We have to donate sanitary napkins to those who can’t afford them.