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  • Shreya Sinha

SAFEGUARDING THE ‘STREE’: FROM THE STIGMA AROUND MENSTRUATION

By- Antra Azad, 3rd Year Student at Chanakya National Law University, Patna

 

In the growing age of cosmos and sciences, women body still remains a vulnerable structure for men and the associated taboos remain at peak. The natural clause that comes along with the gender is also made associated with the society guidelines which we are expected to follow without questioning the rationality of it. One such mystery is menstruation which is known to all but we pretend to keep it a little secret among women.

Menstruation, or period, is regular vaginal bleeding that takes place as a part of a woman's monthly cycle. This process makes a woman ready to bring the next generation into life. It also stands as an indicator for a woman to know if she is pregnant or not and helps to keep a check on her health. But the question remains that how could a regular body function be a matter of shame for the whole gender.

Period poverty is a broader issue than one of the economies. Because of entrenched stigma and taboos related to it, girls remain unaware of this big change that is about to come in their adolescence until menarche. No discussion is made either in their family or school but soon when the arrival of the first menstruation is marked, girls are levied with the dos and don'ts list without being asked about the mental health they are suffering from due to this big change in their life. A whole list of restrictions is imposed during this period and their involvement in the household is minimized because they are thought to be impure enough to be a part of it. Religion also comes up with its own rules of curtailments where the entry of women in the worship place is strictly prohibited because apparently they are impure to be a part and such practices are encouraged through the sacred books of different religions.

Quran mentions

“go apart from women during the monthly course, do not approach them until they are clean" Quran 2:222

The Bible quotes

"…in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean… whoever touches…shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening" Leviticus 15

All of these social disorders can be traced down to backsliding cultural ethnicities that have deep-rooted patriarchal biases against women. Studies have also shown that male perspectives towards menstruation have enabled these myths and misconceptions to make a strong grip in this society. To normalize the idea of women bleeding every month education regardless of gender becomes very important. Men still get disgusted when they see a stain on the dress. Maybe to avoid men getting triggered Indian advertisement is still stuck in the era where they depict stains in the colour blue so that the advertisement could be family-friendly to watch but they fail to understand that these are the small steps to cure taboo around.

Menstruation is one of the few reasons which compel a girl to put a bar to her education. In one of the surveys by the NGO Dasra, 23% of girls drop out of schools with the onset of menstruation. The prime reason for this is the lack of hygiene facilities in the school or the fear of ostracisation around. We need to make the society which is menstrual friendly with making pads easily available and create logical awareness about it.

This euphemism that carries around with this regular cycle is affecting the gender in various ways. One of the biggest hits is on their health because the young girls are unaware of what is to be done and what needs to be avoided during this period and this unawareness, as a result, carries along with the generation which in turn becomes the vicious cycle of taboos. Lack of awareness about the hygiene that ought to be maintained instead of the poverty, ignorance, and unavailability of menstruation products force them to use rags and leaves which could possibly contribute to urogenital inflectional disease which could be grave in nature. Not just physical trauma, menstruation contributes to mental illness as well. Hormonal change is witnessed during this period which leads to mental-emotional breakdown termed as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) to which stereotype and stigma could easily add up to their bad mental health.