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Vivek Adatia
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How queer and convenient it is that women can’t just separate themselves from men! Whether it is the word ‘women’ itself or a completely natural yet glaringly stigmatized biological phenomenon which, though exclusive to women, is ironically called ‘menstruation’. Apparently men have nothing to do with this phenomenon, as it is the women who go through considerable discomfort and difficulties for five days each month. And if you are a woman in India, these difficulties and discomforts increase several folds, due to the societal stigma attached to it and the severe lack of awareness about menstrual hygiene. All of this leads to a quite serious problem called period poverty.
Period poverty is basically a state where women don’t have an easy access to basic hygiene facilities like toilets and affordable sanitary pads. Societal stigma, superstitions and lack of proper education about menstruation add fuel to fire. Women in rural areas take the worst hits due to this. Even after so many decades of the advent of disposable sanitary pads into the market, these women in rural areas have little or no access to them; simply because they are unable to afford them. As a result they resort to the use of dirty clothes and even hay as recorded in many instances. On the top of this, unavailability of such a basic facility as a toilet, makes the situation unbearably embarrassing for them. Ultimately this leads to these women suffering from UTI’s and other such diseases which at times can prove to be fatal.
Now this problem doesn’t end here. The societal stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation make the lives of these women even more miserable. How can you not scoff at the hypocrisy that on one hand, a menstruating woman is deemed ‘impure’ and on the other, the same woman is celebrated when she is about to give birth to a new life with the aid of that same menstrual fluid? Young girls are forced to miss school for five to six days each month or drop out of the school altogether at puberty in worse instances. Women are practically robbed of their freedom, whether they choose to rest or work during this time and are compelled to duel with the duel edged sword of societal expectations. She cannot enter into the kitchen, yet she needs to be the one who feeds the family. Humans are supposed to be the smartest creatures and yet sometimes there cannot be any creature dumber than humans. All these stigmas were attached to menstruation in the first place in the past as an excuse for women to get some rest and isolate themselves as there were no facilities and aids to manage menstruation hygienically. Religious bends were given to it so that people follow it thoroughly. But these stigmas grew obsolete with time and those religious bends turned into taboos which the so called ‘smart’ man failed to identify and created a problematic situation for the women of the society.
The only solution to this very serious problem is to create enough awareness through educational programs educating people about menstruation hygiene, making sanitary pads easily accessible to the women of all classes of the society, trying to break the taboos and eliminating the societal stigma that has become obsolete in these times. Only then we will be able to alleviate or eradicate the problem of period poverty from out society.