Menstruation is the regular discharge of blood from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina.
It’s strange how a normal biological phenomenon which gives the power of procreation to women, has taken up cultural connotations and in India, as well as other parts of the world, it comes with a unique set of restrictions and taboos. Culturally in many parts of India, menstruation is still considered to be dirty and impure.
The origin of this myth dates back to the Vedic times and is often been linked to Indra’s slaying of Vritras. For it has been declared in the Veda, that guilt of killing a brahmana-murder appears every month as menstrual flow as women had taken upon themselves a part of Indra’s guilt.
Further, women are prohibited from participating in normal life while menstruating. In many countries, it is also frowned upon to go to a temple and do pooja at religious events if you are menstruating. Hindu Sabarimala temple in Kerala has never admitted women aged between 10 and 50, whether or not they have their period. The pandit says that they may one day consider allowing women to enter, but only after the invention of a machine to detect whether or not they are menstruating. So basically you can worship women idols but not allow women to enter the temples for praying?
They say she must be ‘purified’ before she is allowed to return to her family and day to day chores of her life. And hence, 23% of girls in India drop out of school when they begin menstruating because they are considered ‘impure’. Even in schools when the topic of menstruation comes up in Biology class, it is not uncommon for boys to giggle and laugh.
Also, poor protection and inadequate washing facilities increases susceptibility to infection. Over 77% of menstruating girls and women in India use an old cloth, which is often reused. Further, 88% of women in India sometimes resort to using ashes, newspapers, dried leaves and husk sand to aid absorption.
Thus, the gender – unfriendly culture and the lack of adequate menstrual protection alternatives and safe and private sanitation facilities for adolescent girls and women undermine their lifestyle and health. For example, in Delhi, there are an estimated 132 public toilets for women, only 8% the number of the 1534 for men.
I recently made this drawing for Menstrupedia. I suggest everyone one of you who is reading this post to read their comic – a friendly guide to periods for girls and share it with your younger siblings and friends.
We need to realize the fact that the change needs to start from within. We have to take pride in this natural process and not consider it as ‘unclean’ or ‘gross’. If a nosebleed or scar isn’t gross, then period blood cannot be objectively gross. We must tackle these taboos and educate ourselves and others on shame-free menstruation talk, and break the cycle of secrecy, fear and misinformation about menstruation.
This drawing above depicts a girl whose reaching heights by embracing her gifted ability. Her pads are not acting as barriers, instead are helping her achieve her dreams. She is not letting the remarks and restrictions of the society break her spirit. She is rising above the taboos and slowly growing and blossoming into a majestic flower – a majestic woman.