#PeriodPaath: “Unabashed Uterus”

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!

To,

Mrs Smriti Irani,

Honorable Minister of Women and Child Development.

Subject: Normalizing periods through parliamentary discussions.

Respected Madam,

I write to you today, in a desperate attempt to normalize periods and menstruation. I find it extremely ridiculous that society today has created a taboo around menstruation. We live in a society where speaking about periods is looked down upon. Men shy away from discussing periods, let alone say the word “Period”. I enjoy seeing them cringe upon hearing words like “Period” and “Uterus”. I feel ashamed to live in a society where women are not only expected to keep shut about periods, but are also supposed to distance themselves from everything for the duration, all for a BIOLOGICAL, NATURAL process!

Mrs Irani, being on the forefront of fighting for women rights and equality, the onus for normalization of periods lies with all of us, the government, the judiciary, the women and THE MEN! The biggest cause for this stigma around periods is lack of information, and illiteracy. A staggering 66% of India comes under rural population, who are often ignored and deprived of basic amenities including education. Sans proper education, the line of thought is passed down from generation to generation, and the narrow minded mentality becomes etched in their minds. Surprisingly, even the women themselves believe their periods are “impure”, and are a result of their bad deeds. This leads them to taking extreme measures.

Sanitary pad producing companies also contribute in spreading this stigma around periods. Widely broadcasted advertisements on televisions show girls being ashamed of having a natural, biological process, and their moms worrying about the family’s image rather than her periods. Even the people starring in the advertisements refrain from saying the word “Period”. Society does not make it easier for them. Periods are made a mockery of, and girls are subject to utter embarrassment if blood is visible on their attire. Periods bring about a complete change in the lifestyle of women.

Apart from being considered untouchables, menstruating women are made to stay outside the house. This tradition is not limited to rural areas alone, but fans out to cities too! Menstruating women in cities are prohibited to enter the kitchen, let alone go near temples. To these Godly people who believe periods are impure, I wish to ask- If they really were impure, why did God make them part of the system in the first place?

We can only eradicate this mental taboo through proper education and access. I urge the government to make Sanitary pads more accessible, and to lower duties so even the weaker sections can have the power to purchase it. It is no secret that the government spends lavishly on advertising. Would it be too much to ask for if some of those funds were diverted into spreading information about periods? Spreading information is imperative in this bid for change. If people were to hear influential people such as yourself, Mr Modi, Mr Gandhi or other senior leaders, it would catalyze the process of normalizing periods. Since the citizens look up to you all for inspiration, normalization of periods must begin from politics.

When everything from temples to economics to clothes is debated upon in the parliament, why are women rights being ignored? Why have there been negligible discussions pertaining to periods and menstrual hygiene of women in the parliament? When millions can be spent on cows, don’t women deserve more? The whole country would appreciate discussions regarding periods in the Lok and Rajya Sabha.

Schools and colleges must also have Menstraul studies integrated in the curriculum, and rather than shying away from saying the words, they must be talked about openly with both boys and girls.

“Education and Information are the two biggest weapons which must be deployed in this battle to normalize periods!”

I hope my letter has made an impact, and wish to see this dream become a reality.

Thank You.

Your’s Sincerely,

Hitansh Doshi.

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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.

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
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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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