Menstruation: A bleeding curse
What is Menstruation?
Menstruation : A process in which the female body sheds the lining of the uterus (womb) and results in bleeding which lasts over a period of 5-7 days. Euphemism used are ‘periods’ or ‘monthly’. A normal menstrual cycle in an adult woman is between 21 and 35 days. In adolescents, there is can be wider variation, and cycles are normally between 21 and 45 days. Menstrual symptoms that occur before menstruation are breast pain, swelling, bloating, and acne.
Myths and Taboos besieging
In the Indian society, menstruation is considered as a duration when even touching a menstruating woman is considered sacrilegious. She is restricted from carrying out the daily household chores and entering the kitchen and holy places is prohibited. And if she does so, she violates the sanctity of that pious place. She has to ensure that she keeps her vicinity clean especially the common area (like washroom).Touching pickle jars is not allowed as the 'touch’ can pollute the contents.
In a nutshell, it is an epoch of a month when the girl is considered to be impure and even touching her is forbidden.
Time to overcome the stigma
Even though menstruation is a natural process which happens every month, it is strange that we shy away in discussing this openly. A regular menstrual cycle points to a healthy womb and is something to rejoice about. Discussing about menstruation in some cultures is considered as insolent.
Stereotypes have built up to such an extent over the generations that no one knows why these kind of rules were put in place at first, which have now become a blockade for a woman who is bounded by those customs.
If we go back to the old times when all the household chores were carried out by women and everything was done manually (as there were no machines that time). The severe bleeding that happens during this period makes a woman physically weak and thus to give her rest and let her gain strength, it was advised that she takes 5 days off from her regular mundane routine and rejuvenate herself. But if you put it in present scenario where there is so much automation and everything can be done by just a click of a button, this whole idea of restricting a woman from carrying out the daily chores during her menstruation days is absurd in the name of religion and age old myths.
Faced the social stigmas?
We are so scared of using the term “Menstruation” that we have devised euphemisms for this. Being a girl, have you ever faced these social stigmas?
School dropouts and child marriages
In India, there are many school dropouts around the age of 10-14 years (puberty age for girls) as there is very less awareness among girls about this phenomenon and also lack of proper sanitation facility makes it awkward for them to attend the school regularly. Also there is a widespread practice in backward and underprivileged localities betroth their daughters once they start menstruating as it is believed that she is capable to bear a child (ignoring the medical implications child bearing can lead to) and blindly following the old futile customs.
Awareness about Menstrual Hygiene
A study was conducted on menstrual hygiene of women in cloth factories and following was the finding:
In Bangladesh, 80% of factory workers are women, stats show that 60% of them used rags from the factory floor for menstrual cloths. These are highly chemically charged and often freshly dyed. Infections are common, leading to 73% of women missing work for on average six days a month. Women had no safe place either to purchase cloth or pads or to change/dispose of them. When women are paid based on per day, those six days leave causes a huge economic damage to them also impacting the business supply chain (WSSCC2013).
There is a dire need for creating awareness among the backward and unprivileged classes about the menstrual hygiene. The Women and Children welfare related organisations need to conduct awareness camps in the underdeveloped areas for young girls and women. Time to raise voice against menstrual exclusion.
Girls should be encouraged to talk discuss this openly in an informed and positive environment.
Now-a-days there are many reusable and disposable solutions available which help in managing menstrual flow with ease and dignity, like:
- Menstrual Cups
- Sanitary pads
- Cloth pads (reusable)
Can comic books help in educating?
Time for Carefree Menstruation
I don’t understand why it is not normal to discuss and talk about this natural phenomenon which is about celebrating a healthy womb. I understand that we go through a tremendous pain every month which sometimes becomes too difficult to bear but it is only we who can enjoy the beautiful gift of child birth. Menstruation is like the body's personal housekeeper which cleanses the womb, releases the bloats, and excess iron which would otherwise have had severe health implications if not excreted out. It also lowers down the risk of Alzheimer's, cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Many organisations in India like Menstrupedia are working towards spreading awareness regarding this natural process and make young girls feel comfortable when they start menstruating. It is very important that we break this social stigma and make it easy for the girls to have a carefree ‘periods’.