Do you mean Periods? Shhhhh !! Don’t speak it aloud. It’s bad! Girl, please don’t go to the kitchen, you will contaminate the food.
Have you ever been into such a situation where uttering the name itself has made you feel embarrassed? Yes most of us feel the same because, in India, the period is a thing not to discuss in open voice or public. Okay, let’s discuss. Menstruation is a natural phenomenon unique to girls and usually starts between the age of 11 and 14 years and is one of the indicators of the onset of puberty. And once this phase is on, the socio-cultural life of women gets affected a lot due to the pressure of Taboos and myths related to it. Culturally, menstruation is still considered to be dirty and impure in many parts of India.
Disclosing the myths– The list of myths are numerous Restrictions like “Not entering the puja room” and the kitchen during menstruation are strictly implemented. Offering prayers and touching holy books by Menstruating girls and women are considered as sin. It is believed that menstruating women are unhygienic and unclean and hence the food they prepare or handle pickles can get contaminated. How it feels when you are a new bride and after marriage, you are forced to sit in one corner of your house after you get your periods. Women feel like untouchables! In rural India, the used clothes during periods are buried under the ground to avoid black magic. These taboos present in many rural societies impact women’s emotional state, lifestyle, and most importantly, health. The hidden reasons for this myth are the cultural beliefs of impurity associated with periods in India.
Vedic research says, this myth dates back to the Vedic times and is often been linked to Indra’s slaying of Vritras. It has been declared in the Veda that guilt, of killing a Brahmin, comes every month as menstrual period as women had taken upon themselves a part of Indra’s guilt. However, in the Hindu faith, women are prohibited from participating in general life while menstruating. She must be “purified” before she is allowed to return to her family and daily chores of her life. Another reason dates back as the temples were made with a lot of steps in it, climbing long steps could cause the women pain as they experience cramps during periods. If hygiene measures are taken into account, no scientific test has shown menstruation as the reason for the spoilage of any food. Exercise is prohibited during periods in India, many studies have revealed that adolescent girls believe that doing exercise/physical activity during menses aggravates the dysmenorrhea while in reality, exercise can help relieve the menstruating women with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea and relieve bloating.
Huge Impact of Myths on Women’s Life. Large numbers of girls in Rural India drop out of school when they begin menstruating. This includes over 23% of girls in India. There are many schools in India which do not gender friendly neither they have proper infrastructure nor adequate menstrual protection nor adequate sanitization measures for female teachers and girls. Over 77% of girls and women in India use old cloth during their periods, which is often reused. Furthermore, 88% of women in India sometimes resort to using wood scraps, newspapers, dried leaves, and husk sand to absorb the blood.
We can Combat Menstruation Related Myths – In the 21st century where these taboos have no real sense should not be a rule to torture women menstruating. We need to raise awareness among adolescent girls related to menstrual health and hygiene. Young girls and boys often grow up with limited knowledge of menstruation because their mothers and other teachers shy away from discussing the issues with them. The government has launched the National Menstrual Hygiene Scheme under the ‘Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram’ program in 2014. The objective of the scheme is to promote menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls in rural areas by supplying low-cost sanitary napkins.
Increasing the role of the male partner can help to a great extent. Men and boys typically know very less, but they need to understand menstruation so they can support their wives, daughters, mothers, students, employees, and peers. A new documentary, ‘Period. End of Sentence.’ which revealed the stigma of menstruation in rural communities in India, even won an Oscar in 2018. The documentary, directed by Rayka Zehtabchi, follows the installation and impacts of a low-cost sanitary napkin machine made by Arunachalam Muruganantham. “Pad Man” Such an amazing illustrative example. A guy from Pune called Pravin Nikam and his job is to speak about periods to the people and running an NGO named Roshni. He educates the villagers and spreads awareness about periods and its taboos myths related which has no meaning in our day to day lives.
We cannot feel shy or ashamed of this beautiful phenomenon gifted by God. We need to get our families talking about how it is unacceptable that it is already 2020 and people have been menstruating since the beginning of time, and yet periods are still an obstacle to success for more than half of our population, preventing them from achieving their full potential with education and economic mobility. Periods are is a virtue. One should take pride in having it owned. Let’s join hands to eradicate these superstitions prevailing in India for centuries now and allow our upcoming generation to live a Taboo Free Life.
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