After my last blog (Shh! Don’t talk about it: Abnormally normal taboo) check it out if you haven’t read it already!!! I have been reading a lot about women’s health, taboos related to periods, etc. Earlier when I wrote about normalizing periods it was to share my views on the topic but later while reading more about it, I realized it is an important issue. Women all over the world have faced period shaming at one point or another in their lives as many ancient cultures considered menstruation unclean or impure and still do. Period taboos have led to the exclusion of women from social, domestic, and educational activities for centuries. These cultural beliefs make us feel like mentioning menstruation is embarrassing or bad, thus, the use of some code words to refer to “periods”.
So, the main focus of this blog is to highlight the health and other issues which are caused due to taboos. Starting with our own country: in India, due to lack of menstrual knowledge when girls menstruate for the first time, over 23 percent of them drop out of school. Those who remain miss an average of 5 days of school per month because of their periods. And as a matter of fact, women’s education can have a huge impact on economic growth, which implies that the menstruation taboo can affect the growth of the country. In Nepal, women are asked to be confined to a “menstruation hut” during their periods and up to two weeks after they give birth. The problems faced due to this practice are so grave as women have died in this hut due to smoke inhalation during fires, wild animal attacks, and illnesses like dehydration. Here we cannot ignore the humiliation which they have to face in addition to their health problems. Period shaming is not restricted to a particular region of the world and is a universal phenomenon. I read a really interesting fact while researching about this topic that in many cultures the first period is celebrated then how the consequent ones become a matter of disgust? The already menstruating women are looked down upon as filthy and impure. Earlier in many parts of the world, due to lack of awareness as well as resources, women used to use rags and clothes instead of a sanitary pad or other sanitary products to stop the flow but even after the availability of these resources’ it is older women who forbid their daughters from using them. The irony of this situation boggles my head how come they who have faced it all, the humiliation, degradation, partial treatment are the ones who are propagating it to their future generation, have they not questioned it when they were young like us or simply have given up into the cruel tyranny of patriarchy? However, the main intention was to highlight the physical health issues as well as the mental health issues of the women. To be considered impure, being treated as untouchable can lead to major emotional instability, low self-esteem, depression and none of us deserve this.