Periods are perceived as a taboo. Women on their menses are stigmatised and restricted from doing their usual tasks and duties. There is a scene in the movie Padman that shows the village women having a celebration for a young girl’s menarche and in the next instant, the same girl is given a cot to sleep in a room in the courtyard of the house. This hypocrisy is a reality. Many girls and women are subjected to such apathetic treatment even today in our society. Why must my body be labelled as impure, just because I bleed?
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Even though people have now started questioning this discriminatory attitude of the society towards women on menses, there’s still a long road ahead. Women are not allowed to attend certain socio-cultural gatherings as they are considered to be impure for those five days of the month. Girls, when they are taught about periods, are conditioned to not say the word or converse about it in hushed tones. Mothers propagate the lessons that were passed on to them by their mothers and that’s how the taboo has escalated over the generations. But it’s high time we shut down these stigmas and talk about periods just like any other function of the body.
Women are seen as impure and dirty and are not allowed to enter religious places. A natural biological process that indicates that a woman is of reproductive age is degraded as an impurity. She, who is called the life-giver, is cast out by society.
Our country is essentially concerned more about a girl losing her virginity as it is associated with the honour of her family, than her menstrual wellbeing. First things first, why does society associate a woman’s virginity with her honour? Since this is a different discussion altogether, read about it here. Secondly, we need to unlearn associating breaking of hymen with loss of virginity and thus honour. It keeps women from sanitary products such as tampons and menstrual cups, that are worn “in” and not on the “outside” because they are afraid that it might cost them their honour. Women deserve to have the agency to choose what sanitary product works for them on the basis of their comfort and not what is considered “appropriate”.
It fills me with disappointment that the society I live in, somewhere and at some time, banishes a girl like me just because I bleed.
Menstruating women are also barred from washing their hair or taking a bath at least for the first two days of their monthly cycle. This arises from the practice of taking bath out in the open in streams or rivers. Earlier, women used to bathe in natural water bodies and it would’ve been a bit embarrassing and unhygienic to bleed while in a river. Times have changed, now most of us have access to bathrooms, but this belief is still prominent in some parts of the country.
Another stigma that I have seen peddled around me is that the holy basil plant (Tulsi) dies if a menstruating woman’s shadow falls over it, let alone waters it. Or that pickle goes bad if a woman on her menses touches it. These are still very common in many urban households too, with our grandmas and even moms sometimes reprimanding us from these particular activities. These beliefs have no scientific grounds and are yet followed. We need to nix them and just let women be.
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It fills me with disappointment that the society I live in, somewhere and at some time, banishes a girl like me just because I bleed. It is disheartening and traumatising to see women go through so much at a time when they need the utmost care and respect. It triggers me when I see someone carrying a pad or a tampon in a brown packet. Why do we need to hide something so essential in a woman’s life? Period shaming has its roots in the myths and beliefs we preach. It is an evil that needs to be bashed.
Saavriti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.