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A Dire need to Change Our Perspective on Menstruation
Posted by : DHD    02-09-2020

Lately, I was surfing through one of the famous ‘Question and Answer’ website where questions are asked and answered by the app-users independently. There was one question that caught my eye – Why can’t Indian Women talk about menstruation openly?

We have stepped in the 21st century. Seventy-Two years have been passed that India has become Independent.  Still, the women of India are shackled by societal norms and taboos. This is impeding their growth as an individual, consequently leading the debarment of the group in society.

And one such taboo that is ruling the lives of Indian women is associated with menstruation. It is seen as anathema in Indian society.

The Menstruation Taboo

Menstruation is a natural process that is intrinsic to women. The occurrence of menstruation is essential as it prepares the body of females for reproduction. Scientifically, it is seen as an indication of a woman’s fertility.

In India, this cyclic process with which a woman has to deal every month is seen more than a ‘biological process.’ This process is tagged with ostensible-claim that ‘a woman becomes impure while she is on her periods.’ A lot of bizarre beliefs have been attached to it, which are scientifically false, yet religiously followed by the Indian families in significant numbers.

Evolution of Menstrual Cycle as a Taboo

On searching more about it online, I came across a research paper by Janet Chawla, “Mythic Origins of Menstrual Taboo in Rig Veda.” From which I have been able to deduce the following information:

Historians have come up with the shreds of evidence that earlier, most of Indian Cultures menstruation considered to be auspicious. In her those days, she was regarded as a goddess because of her ability to bleed without dying. And a common belief was followed that both the fertile earth and woman must rest. Then, the woman was aggrandized because of it, and her fertility was celebrated.

The same society that celebrated her started deteriorating her ability to reproduce. The emergence of menstruation as a taboo originated from a Hindu Mythological Text known as Rig Veda. The mythological story in Rig Veda of ‘Vitira killed by Indra’ led to the association of women’s menstruation blood with sin. It resulted in becoming an archetype of impurity because of which women are considered to be impure during their menstruation.

Effects of Taboo on Women

The ongoing belief from ancient times led the majority of women to believe that they’re impure while they’re menstruating. The doors of religious places, kitchens are shut at that time for them. They’re not allowed to touch anything holy or impure. In most of the Indian households, petty beliefs like “Don’t touch pickles”, “Don’t take a bath till your third day”, “Don’t enter kitchen”, “Don’t cook”, “Don’t touch utensils” are still religiously followed. Though seen from a woman’s perspective, the belief associated with menstruation has become a massive taboo. Still, people, including woman herself, prefer to stay mum!

The silence on this topic has led to a lack of awareness among the masses. The people wrongly-directed because of the already existing notions. This is leading to the deterioration of physical health and mental wellbeing of the females of our Indian society.

How is this taboo affecting women?

  • During the five days, generally adolescent girls prefer to stay at home due to the lack of proper facilities in the school.
  • 70% of girls are unaware of menstruation before their first period. They are completely taken by it as a shock.
  • We need to take into account that the women primarily residing in the hamlet areas of India have absurd beliefs for menstruation. It is pivotal to educate them. They had to handle ‘untouchability’ which affects their mental health.
  • Because of the lack of awareness, more than 80% of women choose alternatives for sanitary napkins like rags, old cloth, hay, sand, ash etc. This severely affects their health and lead to the occurrence of menstrual health problems.
  • Generally, we prefer not to discuss the menstruation part and a woman has to deal with it all alone. Correspondingly, they’re unaware of ‘how to maintain menstrual hygiene.’ As a consequence, they have to undergo major health implications if they fail to manage proper menstrual hygiene.

What do we need to do?

With the release of Akshay Kumar’s movie ‘Padman,’ we realized that how important is it to break our silence on the Menstruation topic. A wave initiated with it that we need to be open about ‘Sanitary Pads/Napkins’ and should make the masses aware of maintaining hygiene during periods to save oneself from the associated health issues.

We need to accept the fact that we are responsible for making this taboo a becoming a threat to us, society, and the environment. The notion that women are impure restricts them to talk about menstrual health. And its been seen, our environment is dealing with negative impact because of the unplanned disposal of sanitary products.

To tackle this issue, stop being ignorant about it and start talking. The way it is crucial for a woman, it is equally essential for the growth of society and the environment as well.

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