(There is a need to change the national policy through education and behavior change, with initiatives such as breaking the stigma of menstruation and promoting menstrual waste workshops and toilet designs.)
enstruation is a natural and healthy biological process for women, despite this, it is still considered a prohibition and an embarrassment in Indian society. Even today cultural and social impact on people is a hindrance in educating adolescent girls about menstrual hygiene. In February 2020 last year, an incident occurred in Bhuj, Gujarat in which the students were asked to remove their pants to prove that they are not in menstruation, this triggered a discussion again about menstruation.
In Indian society, during menstrual days, women are prohibited from participating in day-to-day activities. For example, women are prohibited from entering the kitchen or temple.
Menstruation is a high level of stigma about women. They are also not allowed to eat with their family or travel outside the home. Due to superstitions associated with menstruation, women are unable to go to work during their periods. This reduces the wages they receive, which in turn hurts their financial independence. The notion of menstruating women being “impure” is a belief that targets the physical characteristic of women.
There is less awareness about menstrual hygiene behind these taboo about menstruation. Because of which this stigma finds its roots in the notion of purity and impurity historically associated with menstruation. This was peculiarly explained by Justice D.Y. A case related to this is Chandrachud in Indian Young Lawyers Association v. the State of Kerala (2018), known as the Sabarimala case, a decision which India is still struggling to accept. The main reasons for this dirty thinking are still relevant in Indian society, especially the high rate of illiteracy among girls, poverty, and lack of awareness about menstrual health and hygiene.
These profound social rules about menstruation restrict girls’ freedom and affect their health. The prevalence of patriarchy in Indian society abolishes restrictions that are often reflected in religious texts such as Manu Smriti or restrictions on the entry of women of menstrual age into religious sites in the Sabarimala temple. In short, the three A’s – Awareness, Accessibility, and Affordability – are the major factors influencing the issue. According to a UNICEF study conducted in 2011, only 13% of girls in India are aware of menstruation before menstruation. 60% of the girls missed school due to menstruation. 79% face low self-confidence due to menstruation and 44% are embarrassed and humiliated by the restrictions. Due to which menstruation adversely affects women’s education, equality, maternal and child health.
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According to UNICEF, menstrual hygiene can pose physical health risks and is associated with reproductive and urinary tract infections. This prevents women from reaching their full potential and they miss out on important opportunities for their development. Girls who do not receive education are more likely to enter child marriages and experience early pregnancy, malnutrition, domestic violence, and pregnancy complications. There is a period of shame as well as negative mental effects. This frustrates women, making them feel embarrassed about a common biological process.
The stigma of menstruation is due to shame as well as the high cost of feminine products. This increases the risk and disease risk for them. The latest National Family and Health Survey found that 58% of young Indian women (15-24 years old mostly use sanitary pads, which have increased significantly from 12% using pads in 2010. 18% of Indian women use sanitary pads Used in India. More than 77% of menstruating girls and women in India use old clothes, often reused during periods, along with ash, newspapers, dried leaves, and husks. There is support for them.
The first step to ‘dignity of menstruation’ is to normalize menstruation and destroy its inverse perception by considering it a natural process. Then the policy should be implemented to make menstrual products, hygiene, and hygiene easily accessible. There is a need to change the national policy through education and behavior change with initiatives such as breaking the menstrual stigma and promoting menstrual waste workshops and toilet designs that can handle menstrual material waste in India.
Girls and women should also be educated about this. Special emphasis is being given to the Swachh Bharat Mission along with the hygiene and hygiene needs of women, the need for privacy, security, and dignity. NGOs and CSOs can train women and girls to make safe, reusable sanitary pads so that they always have clean and affordable products available. There is a need to work with local communities to eradicate gender discrimination and pre-tradition thinking from time to time for the good of women. The World Bank and WASH partnered together to create Menstrual Hygiene Day to spread awareness about the importance of hygiene products for women and girls worldwide.
India needs to provide free sanitary products to promote “whoever needs them” like Scotland. In January 2017, a Member of Parliament of Arunachal Pradesh introduced a private members’ bill – the Menstrual Benefit Bill in the Lok Sabha and proposed leave for all working women every month in India. Since 2014, the government has been funding the states for decentralized procurement of sanitary napkins under the National Health Mission, with the availability of Rs 6 to rural girls for a pack of six napkins. The objective of this program is to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls, increase access to good quality sanitary napkins, and safe disposal of them.
The government has launched a public health facility oxo-biodegradable sanitary napkin, which attempts to provide biodegradable sanitary pads for only one rupee per pad, efforts should be made to increase its reach and availability.
Author is a Research Scholar, Freelance Journalist and Columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org