“I was 23-years-old and my wife was 15-years-old when we got married. On the first night of the wedding, my wife got her first period and we both had no clue about what it was.”
These words from one of the participants attending the Training of Trainers workshop in one of the districts in Jharkhand have been haunting me for several days. When the participant shared his story, everyone had a good laugh. When I gave it a thought later, I realized how traumatizing it must have been for both of them. Sex education is still a taboo in India but this was not even about sex, it was about a body change that happens to every girl when she hits puberty. I was confused whether I should feel bad for the fact that his wife was a child bride or I should feel bad for what she must have had to face as a newly wedded girl in a new house getting periods for the first time and not knowing anything about it.
This is not a one-off incident that made menstruation a cause of trauma. Recently, in Fazilka district of Punjab, 15 school girls were stripped by teachers to find out who disposed off a sanitary napkin in the bathroom. This is what happens when you portray menstruation as something to not talk about, which leads to the taboos making it impure and dirty.
It’s high time that we shrug off such incidents making headlines and stories of trauma. There is a dire need to normalize the body, its needs, the changes, and menstruation. I am a strong believer in the idea that if a sustainable and impactful change is to be brought about, it has to be inclusive of everyone. Therefore, we need to break the silence and start talking about periods.