How Effective Are India’s Current Policies Around Menstrual Hygiene Management?

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By being partisan in dealing with the period talks or expressing indifference to the current condition of MHM (Menstrual Hygiene Management) in the country, we might still feel like a set of moral and rightful citizens, playing our civic duties. But what if I tell you that we all are “Period criminals“?

Yes, you, me, our government, we all are nothing but a bunch of period criminals. We consider the “Constitution of India” holier than thou, yet we openly flout the basic norms of this book at every level.

Let’s dive deep and analyze how our present socio-political set-up and we as different parts of this system are failing the period fight from the dimensions of constitutionality.

  1. Article 19 calls for freedom of movement throughout the territory of India. By restricting the mobility of women during “that time of the month”, we are abridging their right to free movement.
  2. Article 42 calls for the state to secure just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief. This is completely being flouted when women are denied clean sanitation facilities.
  3. Article 47 calls for the state to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health, but we have observed how less attention is being given to the MHM-specific components in our public health system.
  4. Article 48A calls for the state to protect and improve the environment. This is ignored when the policies and our actions do not carry the concern of safe disposal of sanitary waste. All we focus is on making the pads accessible, leaving out the holistic view as to what to do when they are once used. This affects the quality of the environment further by causing various types of pollution.
  5. Article 51A (e) puts a duty on every Indian citizen to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women. Therefore, by making period and MHM as a laughing stock, we are hurting the sentiments of women.
  6. Article 51A (h) puts a duty on us to develop the scientific temper. But all we see is silly traditions and old-age ideologies where we tend to ignore the fundamental science. The period is just about biology. How hard is it to grasp a concept and treat it like any normal thing?

Now, you realize how our tiny sense of period-treatment is causing a ripple in the constitutional setup? Moreover, it might be clear by now that the current set of MHM policies and guidelines though seem like a noble commitment from society’s side in terms of its operation and its mandate, but the real picture is quite distorting. The reality is conspicuous by the absence of open period talks, treatment of MHM as taboo or “female issues” and insensitivity towards the need for the adequate period-friendly infrastructure.

Way Forward

 Period is just about biology. How hard is it to grasp a concept and treat it like any normal thing?

For starters, people can acknowledge how they are failing their constitution and general civic sense by not perceiving MHM as a crucial issue of survival linked to all. It is not just about discrimination towards the women; rather, it’s more deep-rooted about our view as parochial human mind set that is running away from its moral duties.

Secondly, executives can pass a decree to the effect that calls for a complete prohibition of period-ostracization on the lines of the untouchability act. It will go a long way to correct the historic wrong being done to women in the name of outcast traditions and retrograde mentality of society.

Supreme Court can explicitly put “Right to Period” under Article 21 of our Constitution because it is significant for the dignity of women. If the right to speak is provided under the implicit tone of this article, I believe this idea is well-justified to the cause of the issue.

I hope this article has been an enlightening piece in making you understand the relation between period fight and women and constitution and our behaviour towards MHM.

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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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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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