PERIOD - A TABOO AROUND THE WORLD
Updated: May 13, 2020
"Menstruation stigma is a form of misogyny. Negative taboos condition us to
understand menstrual function as something to be hidden, something shameful.
And by not naming a thing, we reinforce the idea that the thing should not be named."
" We have an uncomfortable relationship with womxn's bodies, and we see menstruation as a problem that needs to be hidden or fixed."
In India, merely talking about menstruation has been a taboo since a very long time.
Even to this date, where womxn are excelling in a wide variety of fields and leading the world, these taboos hold them back. There are still many hurdles in the way of destigmatizing menstruation.
In many communities, periods have been associated with impurity, shame, dirty and fear.
Let alone men, there are womxn who feel ashamed while talking openly about menstruation.
Sometimes, even mothers are hesitant to talk to and educate their children about periods.
In some communities, young girls are told to be quiet about their periods. Some are even banished from entering the kitchen and pooja ghar during their menstrual cycle.
All of these are consequences of the stigma and taboos surrounding
menstruation, which still prevail today.
Here are some menstrual myths and taboos from across the world. These are the beliefs that keep the menstrual stigma alive and prevent those who menstruatefrom achieving their full potential.
· India : Many womxn are not allowed to enter the kitchen and/or are banished from participating in religious rituals as they are considered impure or dirty. So many of them drop out of school due to shame, lack of menstrual education, and lack of access to menstrual products. Due to the unavailability of menstual products, some womxn also make use of newspapers or wood shavings which can cause harm.
· Nepal : A historic practice called Chhaupadi has recently been banned in Nepal. This period taboo restricted Hindu girls and womxn in Nepal from participating in daily activities, events and from interacing with other members of the community. They were compelled to stay in the "menstrual huts" during their periods. The practice was banned by the Supreme Court of Nepal in 2005, but the stigma was still there. The government of Nepal has passed a new law against Chhaupadi in 2017 after the death of a teen girl in 2016.
· England : Around 1 Lakh girls in the UK missed school in 2017, because they could not afford menstrual products. Shame and stigma resulted in them missing out on education. Also, the girls were embarrassed to ask for help or products and they ended up using the product longer than they are supposed to, which put their healh in danger.
· USA : A huge majority of people believe that period poverty is not a thing in developed countries. But that's a misconception. Period stigma and lack of period positivity is very evident in the United States of America. As of 2018, most states in the USA still imposed luxury tax on menstrual products even though menstrual products are a necessity. Therefore, due to the price of these products many womxn were deprived of them.
HOW CAN WE COMBAT PERIOD STIGMA AND PERIOD POVERTY
Speaking about an issue is the only way to combat its silence, and dialogue is the only way for innovative solutions to occur. Normalising menstruation and making it a topic of conversation is very important.
Educating adolescent girls about menstruation and menstrual health and hygiene should be the primary plan of action. There is also a need to raise awareness among school teachers about how to educate kids regarding menstruation.
Most of the boys and men know nothing concrete about periods. It is really important that they are also educated about this so that they can support their sisters, friends, wives and colleagues who are menstruating.
Drastic efforts are necessary to change the mindset of people. Begin with yourself. Gather as much knowledge as you can about menstruation, start a conversation. Talk to a member of your family and your friends. Talk openly, without any awkwardness.
It is time to demystify the silence and shame around periods and eradicate menstrual taboos.
Written by Neha Khandekar
Artwork by Arnica Kala