के सभी प्रकाशन Subin Sebastian . कोच्चि , भारत
Bloody Shame: The Crisis of Menstrual Health in India
During one class when I was in 8th grade, the girls of my class were asked to go to the library for a ‘special’ talk. For the boys, the class that was in session continued. When they came back, the boys kept asking them what the talk was about but they ignored the questions and went back to their work. Since most of these girls came from urban settings, access to hygienic sanitary napkins and education regarding this issue is highly available. But, when we look at the ease of accessibility for those who cannot afford or avail to use appropriate sanitary napkins and awareness for menstruation, the statistics are horrific, to say the least. Due to a shortage of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) resources, such as the availability of hygienic napkins, knowledge of periods, and hygienic restrooms with a water supply and options for discarding, across 2.3 crores of girls in India opt to withdraw from primary education annually (TIMESOFINDIA.COM, 2022). Such statistics show how biases revolving around menstrual health come from an extremely large point of intersectionality involving the economic, social, religious and cultural aspects of an individual within the larger part of Indian society.
To first understand the importance of menstrual health in India and its crisis, one must first understand what menstruation is. Menstruation, often known as a period, is regular bleeding from the vagina that is experienced as a monthly cycle within an individual with a uterus. The menstrual process takes place when one's body gets ready for a potential pregnancy. The lack thereof causes the uterine cavity, or womb, to lose its membrane. The blood from menstruation is comprised of a combination of tissues and blood from the uterus. This exits through the vagina (National Library of Medicine, n.d.).
The lack of appropriate and hygienic care during the duration of the menstrual cycle can manifest in physical symptoms such as intense infections of the reproductive and urinary systems, which might impair fertility later on and complicate pregnancy. The spread of diseases such as Hepatitis B and thrush can also be seen if there is no aftercare when dealing with sanitary products (World Bank Group, 2022).
One of the main issues that separates India from other countries is the unavoidable fact that it is a highly diverse country with numerous cultures, religions and identities. Hence, the relationship between the people of a community and menstruation is highly subjective. For example, in Hinduism, the spoken tradition and the myth have been passed on for generations since the Vedic times about the guilt of Indra about killing the Vitras manifests in women in the form of menstruation (Garg & Anand, 2015).
Although it may seem repetitive, awareness and education regarding menstruation and its biological origin must be properly addressed. This should be done for all adolescents, irrespective of their gender and socio-economic status. Appropriate awareness can bring about changes in the policies and the social construction which exhibits the menstruation cycle as a taboo. Moreover, hygienic methods must also be taught to avoid physical illnesses and diseases. Accessibility and availability of clean, safe and cheap sanitary napkins and products need to be a focal point as well. Spreading awareness and educating the people of various communities and cultures of India can bring about social change which combats the conventional notions surrounding menstruation, thus normalizing this biological process.
Garg, S., & Anand, T. (2015). Menstruation related myths in India: strategies for combating it. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 4(2), 184. https://doi.org/10.4103/2249-4863.154627
National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Menstruation. Period | MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/menstruation.html
TIMESOFINDIA.COM. (2022, May 28). Menstrual Hygiene Day 2022: Normalizing menstruation in India. The Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/menstrual-hygiene-day-2022-normalizing-menstruation-in-india/articleshow/91852642.cms
World Bank Group. (2022). Menstrual Health and Hygiene. In World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/water/brief/menstrual-health-and-hygiene#:~:text=Poor%20menstrual%20hygiene%2C%20however%2C%20can,as%20hepatitis%20B%20and%20thrush.