I’ve read close to a thousand articles on women’s empowerment which talk about how women are taking giant strides in every sphere of life. Be it work, sport or businesswomen are everywhere. It’s really heartening to see women finally coming out of the clutches of poverty and making their presence felt. But there’s one thing that keeps bothering me- I really fail to understand why on earth are women considered ‘impure’ during menstrual cycles?
The very biological process of menstruation has been triggering numerous debates centred around issues such as temple entries. While social media campaigns powered by companies manufacturing sanitary napkins are encouraging women to come forward and touch the pickle, there are numerous ‘traditions’ that end up snatching away a girl’s/woman’s freedom when she is menstruating.
In some cultures, women on their periods aren’t allowed to sleep with their husbands. I remember having a leisurely chat with a friend of mine from Kerala. He told me his sister wasn’t allowed to share the bed with anyone while she was menstruating and was expected to wash her clothes and utensils separately. Although she followed this practice quite religiously, he said, it shattered her emotionally as she became extremely reclusive. Her parents were well educated, but they had to follow the practice because of societal pressure. In some parts of Chhattisgarh, people still believe that menstrual blood is powerful and can be used by a woman for carrying out ‘Black Magic’. When confinements are forced upon girls without giving a reasonable explanation, they are left with no option but to rebel.
When parents can’t explain something to their children, they call it a ‘tradition’. Sometimes, I get this feeling that categorising something as a ‘tradition’ is perhaps the only way to draw curtains over a conversation if one doesn’t have a practical reason to substantiate an argument. It’s quite surprising to know that very few women understand their bodies. There is a gap that needs to be addressed. Women should look at menstruation as a biological process and understand their bodies in a scientific manner.
In Thiruvananthapuram, women are being introduced to eco-friendly substitutes of regular napkins. Vending machines containing cotton pads have been put in place as a vast majority of women don’t have access to regular pads.
It’s ironic, that all of us are here because of menstrual blood, and yet it’s considered impure. Many still believe that menstrual blood should not be seen. I remember the powerpoint presentation some of my batchmates from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) had made. There was a comment made by one of them which still echoes in my ears, “Menstruation doesn’t make you impure, but stupidity and ignorance does.”
I couldn’t agree more.
It’s the need of the hour that we get rid of the taboo that surrounds the topic of menstruation. Furthermore, breaking the silence around the safe disposal of sanitary waste is just as important.
A discussion on sanitary pads and menstruation has always brought the radar on the need for an effective and eco-friendly disposal system for sanitary pads. Open dumping of these pads may lead to clogging of drainage systems and sewers. Menstrual waste dumped in the open also poses a threat to those handling it. Sanitary workers are vulnerable to diseases such as hepatitis and other bacterial infections while handling pads that are wet and uncovered.
Menstruation is a natural process. Arguments start intensifying once people begin labelling something as ‘bad’. It is just a biological process, and it’s time that we understood that.