The nonsensical taboo of menstruation.

Menstruation. It’s a necessary biological function experienced by half of the global population yet still a dirty word in countries all over the world. The stigma around menstruation is further exemplified by the many euphemisms that exist for the term: “time of the month,” “period,” “female troubles,” “Aunt Flo,” “on the rag,” and many more. And that’s just in English. The smallest of steps taken towards remedying a societal problem, count more than just whining about it. One such baby step is having a basic understanding of what menstruation is.

When Kiran Gandhi was in the final hours of preparation for her first London Marathon, she had a realisation many women will be familiar with: I’m about to get my period at a really inconvenient time. “I remember evaluating my options: a pad wouldn’t really be ideal — chafing is a real issue on a marathon course, and no man I know would run would put cotton between his balls and run 26 miles, I didn’t have a moon cup on me at the time, and I guess a tampon was somewhat a viable option, but it didn’t seem comfortable and I didn’t want to have to run with one and change during the marathon course — there’s no privacy. So, in a radical act to prioritise my own comfort, I decided to bleed freely and run.” 

This was back in 2015. And here we are approaching 2020 and women in India still get menstrual hygiene products wrapped in a black non-transparent bag. The shopkeepers behave like they’re giving out some sort of explosives and double-check to ensure it is not visible. This stigma that surrounds menstruation in our society is nothing short than criminal. A natural biological process every girl goes through for about half of her life. A phenomenon that is so significant that the survival and propagation of our species depend on it. Yet we consider it a taboo. It is a common sight to see visibly flustered faces when one talks about periods. Because we feel awkward and shameful talking about it. Well, no more! We need to fight and kill this taboo by speaking about it and hence make the conversation safe to talk about. Because of this taboo, girls are so worried about their bodies embarrassing other people constantly. There’s actually a term coined for it, “period-panic”. To help you understand it better, here’s an excerpt from a blog. “There’s a pull deep in my lower abdomen that’s followed by a trickle-down my inner thigh. I panic. The nearest pharmacy is two blocks away so I locate the closest woman and ask for a sanitary pad. My period panic is short-lived, as feminine hygiene products are easily accessible in the United States. However, the same cannot be said for many women around the world. The reality is that the majority of women in developing regions have limited access to feminine hygiene products due to cultural stigmas that prevent their sale and distribution.”

 How does this affect us? Well, misinformation about menstruation goes on to hinder girls’ access to education and work opportunities. 23% of girls in India drop out of school when they start their periods because they don’t know what to do.  That’s almost one in four girls! 113 million girls, at the risk of dropping out of school. That’s 11.3 crores of missed talent! Imagine if the likes of PV Sindhu, Kalpana Chawla, PT Usha, Sudha Murthy were amongst these 11.3 crore women. Nightmarish, isn’t it!? Yet, only 3 out of 10 girls know about menstruation before getting their first periods. A study shows that the girls are horrified when they get their first period because they think they have blood cancer. The fathers, brothers and husbands oftentimes only learn about menstruation once they get married. If we being educated, are so ill informed about menstruation, imagine the state of the rural areas. It is important for men to understand menstruation so they can support their wives, daughters, mothers, students, employees, and peers. There are so many comics coming out about menstruation which help the kids understand the process of it in a taboo-free way! Use them. It’s not a disease, not a curse, but a welcoming change in a girl’s life. Please be period positive.

Article by Shrinidhi Mirji

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john · December 3, 2019 at 6:08 am

thank you so much share the blog Because of this taboo, girls are so worried about their bodies embarrassing other people constantly. now is

Jackie · January 22, 2020 at 4:53 pm

I 100% agree with you on this! There is definitely no way that there should be a taboo surrounding menstruation as it’s a normal bodily function!

Jonathon Montalvo · August 2, 2020 at 3:29 pm

An excellent post, congratulations !!

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