The pain for periods is less painful in many parts of Indian society than the pain caused by the taboos and myths around it. Shock, embarrassment and Shame – are three common words associated with the girls when they experience their menarche, first period. This happens mostly because of the taboos which stop their elders to talk about it beforehand.
Why can’t we erase menstrual taboos from India when the country is progressing in every aspect including the literacy rate, which is at 74.04%? We are updating our mobile phones, Television sets and even the kitchen utensils more often than our age old thoughts and most of them with no logic or science. Lots of organizations and individuals are now working around the issue of menstrual myths and taboos but the fact is that they still exist with strong roots. So, where is it going wrong or lacking?
Well, for this, we need to first find out the origin of these taboos and how they propagate. It usually starts at a girl’s home itself, when the mother or any other lady of the house first draws a line around the girl when she reaches menarche. In most of the cases, the girls are not pre-informed so when it starts, they get the first big shock of her life because of the unpreparedness. And, why it is not discussed earlier because the women in the house feel shy to talk about it to their adolescents beforehand. The series of myths and taboos start from menarche, when she is instructed not to play with her brothers or male friends. The mental block is formed at this small age and then she gets ban from entering kitchen or any religious places or participate in festivals as she is considered impure during periods. It is believed that even the smell of the menstruating girl can spoil the food. In some families, no other person even touches the girl before she gets purified!
A menstruating girl is usually given a separate place to sleep and in some cases, without any proper bedding whereas she needs best of her comfort during this time. The male members are not allowed to enter that area forget about taking care of that girl. More than 88% of our women still use shocking alternatives like rugs, unsanitised clothes, newspapers, dried leaves, husks and ashes during menstruation. It is not always because they can’t afford to buy sanitary pads but in many cases because of the taboos believed by the family.
Some strange taboos and myths around menstruation are-
• Menstrual blood is considered to be the consequence of a punishment from a deity
• A girl can’t wash or cut hair during menstruation
• The flowers and plants will die quicker if a menstruating woman touches them
• Ban from any religious places during periods
• Shower or bathing during this time will lead to infertility
• The menstruating girls talking to a man will make him sick
• Pickle will get contaminated even if the jar is touched by a menstruating woman
• Period stops if you get into water
And the list will go on! So, the answer of any woman will be it is the age old rule and traditions of our society and we must respect them. The toughest nut to crack here is the thought process of the so called traditional thoughts that creates an invisible barrier for the women. But then again, we can’t change the society on the click of a button neither can we relax just respecting their myths and taboos. It can be started from the adolescents who are preparing to be future parents of the next generation that can be stopped to go forward with the burden of these taboos. Schools can be starting point to break this thought barrier as the parents also believe their child will never bad things from there. If these adolescent girls and boys are properly taught about the physiology of menstruation and why it should be considered as a biological process then they will not follow the age old taboos. The schools can also conduct a workshop for the parents and children together on menstrual facts so that the mental block is broken slowly and steadily. Usually, the male members of the family are never involved in the menstrual talks as if it is top secret of the females only! The boys should know the pain their sisters and mother go through during periods and while giving birth so that they grow up being more sensitive. They won’t tease a girl if she is spotted with period blood rather will try to help her out.
The stigma around menstruation cannot be removed just by educating women as it needs equal participation of men who are equal half of the society. Even the workplaces need to be period friendly to bring gender equality or the attendance of the female staffs can have an impact.
If a girl grows up with lots of restrictions during her menstruation then half of her productivity will go waste and the negative impact of these stigmas will badly affect her health and hygiene. Today, on the “Menstrual Hygiene Day”, we can take the pledge to no more encourage the taboos and myths and help our women to live a healthy, hygienic and free life.