Menstruation is a natural, obvious and inevitable part of a women’s life. However, in some countries people do not perceive it this way. It is often treated as a taboo topic and there are various myths created arround it. The most disturbing seems the fact that this situation can still be observed in both, the developing and the developed economies. In India the problem is especially serious due to the cultural and social impact which hampers the development of education on the subject. Taboos and myths surrounding the topic of menstruation exclude women from many aspects of social relations and prevent them from enjoying life at its full. Instead of accepting this time as a natural part of the biological cycle, they associate it with shame and avoid discussing it which leads to lowering their self-esteem.
There has been a common belief in India that women should not touch anything at home during thier period because they are „not clean”. They could not prepare food since their „uncleanliness” would contaminate the meal. And above all, they should not enter the temples which are associated with holy and clean places and therefore they must not be „stained” by women who are on their period. These rules and myths have been supported by many people in India and are still an important problem in the rural areas. Such approach does not only limit the freedom of women as citizens of India but also it leads to inequality between genders on the basis of their natural and biological features. It prevents them from practising their religion, separates them from their relatives and makes it impossible to do their everyday activities.
As ridiculous as it sounds, the problem is still present in the modern Indian society. The thing that should change at first is the understanding of menstruation and biological cycle as natural and inevitable parts of women’s life. As long as period will be trated as shame or sickness the situation will not improve. It is crucial to realize that such approach hampers the social development and discriminates women by limiting their freedom and rights. Period should be understood as an obviuos part of the cycle and a neutral phenomenon among women just like aging or getting body hair.
WHAT WOULD OTHERS THINK?
Another great problem which, sadly, is still common in India is the shame of talking about „these days” and sharing experiences. According to a study by a sanitary tower manufacturer 75% of Indian women who live in cities still buy their pads wrapped in newspaper or a bag since they are afraid of the reaction of others. They are also ashamed to ask any other person, especially the male family member to buy tampons or pads for them. This unhealthy approach creates a stresfull and myth-making surrounding of the subject. Discussion is one of the vital parts of a process of change and therefore it should be practised without the social pressure and cultural anxiety. This is the only possible way to make girls and women confident about their nature. Any education on the subject of menstruation will not be succesfull if the women will not feel comfortable to discuss it.
According to a study called „stree arogya shodh”, conducted between 2001 and 2005 in Goa it was found that 72% of women who participated in the research used cloth napkins and only 19% of them used disposable sanitary pads. Since then, the menstrual and hygiene awareness among Indian people have not changed much. Many women in India still do not know about the right hygiene during their period. They are ashamed to hang the stained clothes outside and let them dry on the wind. They try to hide them behind other wet clothes which causes that they can not fully dry. That leaves a stench which is not hygienic especially when the clothes are then used again and again. Inappropriate hygiene leads to serious threats for the health of women. They need proper education about the cleaning process, application of pads and tampons and washing. They must not be seen as sick or filthy during their period. The subject of menstruation should become a mainstream one rather than a taboo. However, to achieve that both men and women are needed.
The natural biological cycle adopted various cultural and religious connotations followed by a set of restrictions and taboos. Combating them is a serious and difficult goal to achieve but it i salso the crucial change that needs to be introduced to improve the life of women in India and other countries. The lack of education, shame and inappropriate hygiene lead to serious threats to both, physical and mental health of women. That is why it is vital to spread the awareness among people to make this topic common. That is a meaningful step to women empowerment.