A large thank you to my sister, and my father... For helping me edit it.
I wish everyone a very happy International Menstrual Hygiene day. Today is an important day for all humans around the world because this day signifies the need to talk openly about menstruation and the truth and taboos surrounding it.
About 20% of girls in India drop out of school when they hit menarche and many do not go to school the three to five days they have their period because schools don't have a proper water system to change their sanitary towels. What's worse, these girls are taught by the adults around them, that they can't go near boys or talk to them during their period for fear that they would get pregnant immediately. Menstruating girls are prohibited from going to temples and mosques when it's their time of month out of a belief that it is disrespectful to God. People of faith often use God as an excuse to discriminate against menstruating women. If God truly were an all encompassing and infinitely benevolent being, would she/he be okay with ostracizing half his children for all of their reproductive lives?
These beliefs don’t even scratch the surface of the large number of myths that surround menstruation. Women are often prohibited from wearing white for fear of staining their clothes in public. Another popular myth is that menstruating women touching cows renders the bovines infertile. Many households don't allow women in the kitchen if they're on their period.
Some of the more garish practices involve segregating the woman from the household because she is considered impure and hence untouchable.
Last November, people questioned why women from the ages of ten through fifty weren't allowed in the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The chief of the Sabarimala Devaswom Board, Prayar Gopalakrishnan replied that menstruating women were impure and hence, not allowed. He also stated that until there was a machine that could detect when a woman was on her period, the blanket ban would continue.
Why is it that these archaic customs and beliefs are still in practice? Why then isn't there a conversation about the menstrual myths?
This, to put it quite simply is because talking about periods is a big fat NO NO. Women cannot talk loudly about periods lest someone overhears them. Men aren't even supposed to know about it. Menstruation is considered to be something impure, unclean and totally yucky. It MUST be kept on the down low, all hushed up. Women live under constant fear for being judged for their basic biology.
How are you expected to move forward when you've got the next generation, the adolescents stuck lagging behind? As long as there aren't proper facilities for girls at schools, many will stay home, unable to access basic education. As long as access to proper sanitary products is limited, gender equality will remain a faraway dream. As long as people don't speak up against menstrual taboos, they're taking gender equality back a hundred steps.
Sanitary products are important because so many women all over use rags and dirty cloths to absorb the blood. Girls can't dispose of the mainstream pads like Whisper and Stayfree. Moreover these pads are extremely toxic to the environment. Of course it impacts both men and women, that's why it is an issue. The commercial sanitary napkin takes forever to decompose, and it is so chemically active. The bleaching that each pad goes through to make it look cleaner involves so many chemicals, it is appalling.
Girls and boys alike, we need an alternative to watching our beloved earth die slowly and steadily. We need something that helps the earth and doesn't even harm our bodies. To this, cloth pads are one. Another are menstrual cups.
Cloth pads seem like a new invention but people have been doing something similar for ages. Now, many brands like Eco-femme are producing cloth pads, but the easiest way out if you've got some cloth, needle and a thread is doing it yourself.
I made the switch about six months ago, inspired by a You Tuber. Now, I don't get as many cramps anymore and my heart feels lighter because I've lessened my carbon footprint.
Starting at menstrual myths till menstrual products, I think I've covered the thread I had in my head. And since today is the international Menstrual hygiene day, the twenty eighth (because each cycle has roughly 28 days) of May (because an average woman gets her period for five days), I want to ask you all, to go ahead and talk with somebody about periods (not involving even a single snicker), because talking openly helps understanding. If we understand we can get past the taboos. And change the present.