#Periodपाठ: A Light On The Stereotypical, “Sacred” Issues Of The Indian Women

Editor’s Note: This post is an entry for the #Periodपाठ writing contest, a unique opportunity for you to write a letter and stand a chance of winning up to ₹30,000! The contest is organised by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC. Find out more here and submit your entry!

Meghna Shukla,

D 58/33 A, Sigra,
Varanasi,
Uttar Pradesh,
221010

22/01/2020

Saurabh Srivastava,
The MLA Cantonment,
D63/6B-87 Shivaji Nagar Tulsipur, Mahmoorganj,
Varanasi,
Uttar Pradesh,
221010

Dear Sir,

I, Meghna Shukla, am a resident of your constituency. I, like most of the other residents of your constituency, have faith in you that you would listen to our problems and do your best to provide suitable solutions to them. It is with that faith that, I am writing to you, to bring into your notice the laxity of menstrual hygiene in your constituency.

I would like to empower my words, “lack of menstrual hygiene” by illustrating a material example, or rather, a material consequence of the lack of the basic hygiene that every woman needs.
It was a calm morning, and I was out in the balcony of my house, when I spotted our female domestic help, running to the washroom as if her world was crashing down. I was overwhelmed when I saw blood all over the chair she was sitting in.

I assumed, it was the onset of her menstrual period of the month, and perhaps, she did not see it coming or might have forgotten to change the sanitary pad. My heart started thumping as she did not come out of the washroom for as long as 80 minutes. Concerned, I knocked on the door to ensure she was okay. Sobbing, she said, “I am going to die”. I was worried because there was none at home, except for my younger brother, who rushed to help as soon as I called for him.

After we somehow managed to get her out of the washroom, I tried to talk to her in private – given the fact that she was hesitant to say anything in front of my brother, which shines a light on the stigma around menstruation. She told me that it pained every time she bled. To my shock, I found that she was using a cloth – a dirty cloth!

Hurriedly, I took her to a gynaecologist. We got some tests done, after which, we found out that she had developed an infection in her vagina that had spread to the uterus. After further examination and talks with her, the doctor said that, the primal cause of the infection was that, instead of sanitary pads, she had been using dirty cloths for 8 long years! She also shone light on the fact that, a few months ago, she had been using public toilets, which used to be very dirty as they were hardly cleaned and both, men and women used the same toilets at their whims – something that she told the doctor.

I was appalled and overwhelmed. I asked her, as to why she didn’t use the sanitary pads, when the government had rolled out a scheme to make them available for an amount as nominal as Rs. 6, to which, she replied, “It is just on the papers; nobody sells them.” The poor soul had tried buying them by going to every shopkeeper and chemist in her locality, who laughed it off in her face. She also said that nobody in her locality actually knows about the scheme and women still use cloths and even leaves!

She got her uterus removed. It did not stop at that; her husband abandoned her for talking to someone else – a doctor – about private, and, “sacred” issues of the Indian women.

Prior to writing this letter, I was a bit annoyed that none of the media outlets had written anything on the issues of menstrual hygiene in Varanasi. There was almost no substantial piece of information, except for my personal experience with something like this. It was then that, I came across a piece of survey, wherein, it was concluded that out of 650 female respondents, only about 200 actually used sanitary pads.

It makes me sick as woman, to realise that, when as a country, we are all fighting for women empowerment, we still have stereotypes and improper education and execution of policies coming back to haunt us.

I know that, when I am writing this, I am writing for all the, “men and women” in your constituency – we have faith in you, and we have faith in us. We can change the looks of the things. Therefore, on behalf of all the men and women in your constituency, I request you to ensure –

1) Better menstrual hygiene

2) Educating our community- your constituency – about menstruation, in order to break stereotypes and make people aware.

3) There is proper implementation of policies and that people are benefitted they way they are supposed to be.

4) There are surveys done at regular intervals, to keep a reality check in place.

5) Incidents like this and the actual condition of women are brought to the notice of the people; so that, we can all collectively support and work hard to be the forces for change.

I hope, you will consider my words and do the needful.

Yours sincerely,
Meghna Shukla

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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.

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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
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