Talking about period has always been taboo, mainly in the 3rd world countries. Women for years have been trying to end the shame associated with it while fighting to make sanitary products affordable. Taboo surrounding menstruation excludes women and girls from many aspects of social and cultural life. It’s time we get rid of the period taboo and have an open conversation with both genders about menstruation and how the female reproductive system works.
I remembered when I was thirteen and had suddenly gotten my period on my trip to India. There was an all-women gathering at my friend’s home, and I asked her for a pad. She looked at me in surprise and pulled me to the side. She took out two pads from her closet, wrapped them in a plastic bag, and handed them to me. I didn’t understand what I did that made her feel embarrassed. Why didn’t she want any of the ladies to notice she was giving me a pad. I later asked my mom, who explained that girls in developing countries are not supposed to talk about their period, especially in public. Even if it’s the 21st century, people still believe that menstruating women are impure and dirty. Girls are made to feel ashamed about getting their period and associate it with something negative. That indicates many young girls are not taught safe, hygienic practices or even about the reproductive system due to social shame.
I didn’t realize what a vast taboo it was in India until my dad went to pray in a mosque in Bombay, and my mom and I had to stand outside because there wasn’t a women section to pray. Muslim women in India are told to offer prayer at home because it’s assumed to be better for them. They are also not allowed to enter a mosque when menstruating. That is why most mosques don’t have a separate room for ladies to pray their Salah. Hindu women are also asked not to enter the temple during menses.
Superstitions about periods around the world
Many of the elderly population in different countries believe that periods are a curse given to women and hold many superstitions. In India, women are not allowed in the kitchen of their own homes or touch anyone for several days until it passes. In places like Poland and Italy, menstruating women should not touch a flower or plant because it’s believed to die quicker. In Bolivia, you shouldn’t hold babies during the time of the month if you do it can cause them to get sick or die. As more people learn about the female reproductive system and myths, period superstitions are becoming a thing of the past.
How education is affected
Period taboo doesn’t just stop there. It also affects young girls’ education in India and other developing countries. About 23 million young girls drop out of school every year after their period begins due to the lack of awareness and the availability of appropriate menstrual hygiene products. Many young girls fear classmates would mock them if it stained their clothes. In H.S, teachers find it a delicate topic and avoid talking about it. When they try to discuss it with their students, there are looks of disgust and discomfort on their faces. In India, an H.S teacher stated, “we avoid talking about menstruation because we will then have to talk about sexual education. That is also a taboo topic that parents should discuss with their children, not us. If we talk about it, parents say we are trying to corrupt Indian culture.”
Countless women in India cannot afford sanitary napkins. Some females use old rags and cloths repeatedly, causing infections. There are also other countries like Kenya, where 65% of girls don’t have access to sanitary pads and tampons. Females suffering from period poverty resort to using leaves from trees, the insides of mattresses, socks, or even reusing dirty sanitary pads. Places in Nepal have huts away from home where women stay until their cycle is over.
What we could do to help
Many foundations have been created to educate women and men about menstruating and end period poverty. Your donation can help a young girl continue her education and bring change.
Written By- Mubina C