It’s High Time Our Society Buried The Myths Around Menstruation

Since time immemorial, menstruation has been considered as a sin, as something dirty, in our society and everywhere around the world. So many taboos are inherently associated with it. In ancient times, particularly in our society, the girls who attained puberty were strictly prohibited from entering the temple and even their own kitchen. The clutches of this so-called social evil never allowed them to breathe freely. They were even  regarded as untouchable. This unbearable pain was tolerated with sealed lips.

The superstitions associated with menstruation were even more painful. In a strictly male-dominated society, women and girls were trained to conceal their fear as well as the stains. Dry leaves, ash, sand, old rags and cotton clothes were the only materials they used during the period. These were the dogmas passed on to them from their elders.

The list of do’s and don’ts:

A bucketful of instructions was imposed on them. They were strictly limited from cooking, attending a celebration, etc. They were not even allowed to share a bed with another family member. Certain norms/restrictions were imposed on them regarding bath and sanitation as well. Indispensable sanitary pads were considered as luxury items to purchase.

From the beginning, we women are confined within a restrictive boundary. Why? A sense of embarrassment and guilt is associated with periods! Menstruation is a biological process related to reproduction and fertility. Then a family should celebrate it, no? So why should we associate fear and shame with periods? It’s high time we broke this vicious circle. Females should be pampered at the attainment of puberty not shunned. Religious beliefs should not be created as a hurdle in their life. We must break the silence!

The conservative ideology has been continuously choking the women’s voices. Speak up for your sake, women. In rural areas, women and girls at the time of their periods, religiously adopt the cultural myths like not cooking or washing their hair. In urban areas, women still don’t join their family celebration or festivities.

The government has come up with several campaigns to reduce these taboos. Many awareness drives and governmental initiatives are sincerely created at the ground level by volunteers. But this is not enough. Until and unless a self-realisation comes from within, no change can be made at the ground level. Unclean and unhygienic mentalities should be abandoned. A period is not dirty. Instead, it is the gross inequality that has been prevailing since ages which reeks. Hence, a behavioural change and a systematic approach towards broadening the thinking will relieve our society from such problematic beliefs.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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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