“History says that untouchability was abolished in India in 1955, But the truth is that an advance version of it still exists, especially against women in the form of menstruation taboo“- Lady Malitia
A recent event in the western part of India ‘Gujarat’- Bhuj, gloated stripping the dignity of women due to Periods. 68 young women were pulled out of class and were asked to remove their lowers for inspection. The college officials doubted that menstruating women were breaking the rules by sitting with everyone for meals and touching other women and officials during their ‘that time of the month’.
The rural parts of India lack light on the subject of Periods for women. While these girls feel traumatized with this incidence, imagine the state of 64% (source- 2019 data) of the Indian women majorly in rural areas who do not even have access to basic sanitary napkins during their monthly menstruation, and are also struggling with discrimination against them.
Periods are whispered, wrapped under newspapers and black polybags in India. The hesitation is such that most of the time, women write their need for sanitary napkins and pass it on to the pharmacy salesman instead of speaking it out with dignity, majorly prevalent in the rural and semi-urban areas. Even though many wellness and beauty brands and fashion and beauty bloggers are creating campaigns and advertisements around it yet Periods seem to be a taboo in India.
A biological process that empowers women with procreation is TABOO IN INDIA! WHY?
PERIODS- ‘That Time Of The Month’
A common phrase used during the 2-5 days bleeding tenure, ‘ That Time Of The Month’ sails many women through the shameful, impure and dirty mindset of others. While few cultures in India celebrate the onset of womanhood (Orissa & South India) others look down upon it, but education and widespread initiatives through social media influencer marketing by wellness and beauty brands, government, and celebrities are changing the scenario and equalizing the state of women during Periods in semi-urban, rural and metropolitan areas.
Myths On Periods In India
- Girls are IMPURE during Periods
- If girls go near plants, the plants will perish
- Pickle, curd & tamarind will rot if menstruating girls touch them
- Tampons will break your hymen
- If you wash your hair before the 3rd day, the flow will be less and will hamper your fertility
- Everything you cook will be a disaster
- Entering into temples during Periods is a sin
- Any physical activity or contact with spouse or partners will hamper the flow
- Periods can be a curse for others around, hence, women must stay alone and separately during this time
- It is a disease and girls might die
Impact Of The Myths & Socio-Cultural Taboo
As periods are considered to be the impure time and many avoid addressing the topic, about 60% of women in India do not have access to information, sanitary napkins, and other products essential during the Periods’s duration.
They use old cloth, dry leaves and even ashes or absorbent sand to hide the stains, either due to the shame, cultural practices, or poverty and poor economic status. A recent survey conducted revealed that about 23 million girls drop out of school after they hit their puberty in India. Not just this, to talk about Periods is restrictive, hence many don’t even know about it before they get their first stain. Poor hygienic conditions, also lead to the contracting of diseases such as Cervical Cancer, Yeast infections, Urinary Tract Infection, and Hepatitis B.
Menstrual Hygiene Day – The Wave Of Change
Menstruation or Periods is a monthly cycle that prepares the women’s body for possible pregnancy also embracing the changes it is going through. The bleeding is partially blood and partly tissues from inside the uterus. It is a biological process that empowers women with procreation and growth.
Period Positive- 28th May
If one sees Periods as a menace with detrimental characteristics, STOP and RESTRUCTURE – Become #periodpositive. (With so many wellness and beauty brands and NGOs spreading awareness about Periods and its process, the mindset of the rural and semi-urban does not change.)
A German-based NGO Wash United in 2014, initiated to dedicate a day to good menstrual hygiene management. This was especially for developing and underdeveloped countries where socio-economic and cultural norms silence people to discuss on a mere bodily process while tagging it under taboos and restrictive talks. Since then many have taken to talking openly about Periods through social media and social media influencer marketing, supporting this initiative formally and dedicating 28th May as a Global Menstrual Hygiene Day.
What Happens To Women During Menstruation?- They Bleed With Dignity!
‘They Don’t Die nor Become Impure nor Attract Evil Spirits!’
When girls or women are about to get their menses, they experience physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral discomfort called PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome). Affecting 90% of the women globally, this is a common and natural condition.
Cramps, backache, low energy, acne, fatigue, and mood swings are other conditions women might or might not experience during their menses. Getting Periods, going through that time can be annoying for a woman but it surely doesn’t and shouldn’t affect her quality of life especially because others feel that way.
Feminine Hygiene Products – Sanitary Pads, Tampons & Menstrual Cup
To Each Her Own! With many products available in the market supporting personal hygiene during Periods by wellness and beauty brands, here is the gist of the most commonly used ones.
- Sanitary Pads
For those with heavy flow swears to them, keeping it ready in stock always!
A menstrual pad is worn in the underwear keeping it just below the vaginal area. They boast themselves as a sanitary towel or an absorbent item that has to be used and thrown. With various varieties adjusted to the flow of the girl/ woman, they lead their way in the market with about 40%+ (source- persistence market research 2018) share globally.
Now being made available at very affordable costs, it is also being used by the rural population of India. Although a concern being shared amongst the sanitary pad users is the problem related to its disposal as much of it is dumped in landfills as they contain non-biodegradable plastic. A solution to the same is seen entering the market through organic sanitary pads.
Popular and trending, Tampons are just the thing for frequent travelers, athletes, and on the go women!
These small cylindrical cotton pieces, fit easily in your pocket. The vaginal inserters absorb the blood but require frequent changes to keep safe from TTS (Toxic Shock Syndrome). Another used product during menses, Tampons global market size is expected to reach 5.7 Billion by 2024. With U.S.A, Europe, and the Asia Pacific being the most favorable markets for Tampons, it is sure to climb up the ladder in women’s hygiene, bringing innovations and better care.
- Menstrual Cup
Budget-friendly, reusable, and liberating- Menstrual Cups are collectors!
Invented in 1937, by American actress Leona Chalmers, menstrual cups are budget-friendly and eco friendly collectors of Period flow for women. Made of silicone or rubber, it is small, flexible, and funnel in shape. It claims to hold more blood than any other method with easy insertion and wear for 10-12 hours without a change.
Available in small and large sizes depending upon the size and flow, make sure to lubricate the rim of the cup before insertion. The downside of using menstrual cups for personal hygiene would be its messy changing and cleaning process along with a constant stuck feeling if not inserted properly.
The menstrual cup market is expected to reach USD 963 million by 2026 from USD 600 million in 2018.
#StopPeriodShaming- Celebrities & Influencers Spreading Awareness
Women, Come On! There Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of, To Be On Periods.- Say It Out Loud!
Breaking the taboo of PERIODS/ MENSES/ MENSTRUAL HYGIENE in India and empowering women to talk about it, many celebrities and Social Media Influencers Marketing took to their handles and supported the Menstrual Hygiene Initiative.
Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar has been supporting the initiative of promoting Menstrual Health Hygiene. He also issued an urgent plea for menstrual hygiene to get the same attention as sanitation in rural areas under the Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan. Other B-Town celebrities who have come forward to spread awareness about the same are Diya Mirza, Bhumi Pednekar, and Sonam Kapoor.
The Government Of India also introduces initiatives and schemes to combat this taboo. Recently, a new scheme to promote menstrual hygiene amongst adolescent girls between 10-19 years in rural areas was introduced by The Ministry Of Health & Family Welfare that aims at providing access to high-quality sanitary napkins and safe disposal of the same to them.
UNICEF is also raising awareness of menstruation by promoted the red dot challenge on social media busting the myths related to Periods.
Famous Influencer Who Took To Social Media
Kavya Khurana – Influencer, DJ & Entrepreneur – supported and posted on her Instagram handle- ”When it comes to making this world a better place, we are all on the same side 🙌 ”
Diipa Khosla- The Founder of post for a change, Influencer and awardee of Influencer of the Year by Elle, Vogue, and Inflow, also posted “May this be the beginning of a new, shame-free era!! Please join us in this shame-free revolution by posting a selfie with a red dot 🔴 on your palm and together we can show the world the power of social media for social change. Let’s reach even more girls and boys that need to hear this! We can ONLY do it together!!”
Harshita Shekhar Gaur– She took to Instagram expressing “I bleed strength, courage and the essence of being a woman” 🔴
Debasree Banerjee- The Cosmopolitan India Best Beauty Blogger initiated “Are you comfortable talking about menstruation, if not ask yourself again what makes you uncomfortable? Is it any different from any other bodily function? No, it’s not! High time we take a step towards ending the shame & eradicating period poverty.”
I Knock Fashion Desk (Conclusion)
Period Shaming is a social stigma and societal taboo. More and more women are opening up about menses and Periods along with spreading awareness about the hygiene routine and biological process related to it. India is stepping up, supporting campaigns about periods, and contributing to a better sanitation facility for rural women.
It’s about time, OPEN UP! DON’T FEEL SHY! VOICE IT OUT and don’t let Periods be the reason for discouragement and shame.