Yash Tiwari
Not Helpful

Menstruation is exoticized by some societies, seen as a spiritual and ritual activity. Taboos on menstrual health have been a hindrance to the education of girls and women; they are perceived as impure and contributing members of society in India. Thus, menstrual taboos have been created in the name of upholding these two fundamental components of every society. The generalized perception of women remains that they are emotional and irrational beings. It is surprising, if not shocking, to note how this has affected the way women perceive themselves. Menstruation taboos and laws are a way of controlling menstruating vaginas and women’s bodies. They are a reflection of the deep patriarchal mindset that women’s bodies, sexuality, and reproductive functions are dirty, impure, and polluting.

Women themselves have internalized patriarchal ideologies to such an extent that they perpetuate this stigma on menstruation. Menstrual taboos and superstitions are not restricted to India alone but are present in other Asian countries as well. For example, some Japanese refrain from bathing during their menstrual period for fear of being stigmatized by neighbors or colleagues. Therefore, a person is expected to be modest about her ‘womanhood’ and therefore most women are not even aware of their menstrual cycle.

Menstruation has been viewed as a pollutant by society. Typically, menstruating girls and women are banished from their homes or barred from entering the kitchen. They are told not to touch pickles and fish, indulge in non-vegetarian food, wear red clothes or have sexual intercourse with their partners during this period. They are also discouraged from bathing in holy water bodies or touching flowers during menses. The stigma associated with menstruation can be traced back to the ancient Indian scriptures where we find references to the impurity of women during periods. These very ideas are carried forward in modern times, and along with them all the resultant taboos, rituals, and superstitions.

Even though many women are aware of the importance of adequate menstrual hygiene, they remain confined to social taboos, religious beliefs, and negativity. Also, certain factors contribute towards cloth usages such as financial status and lack of proper facilities. No matter what the situation is in the developed world, women’s menstrual hygiene is woefully inadequate. This results in a variety of problems ranging from absenteeism to poor health. Lack of access to sanitary products means that women are more susceptible to infections and diseases caused by bacteria and viruses including HIV/AIDS. Menstrual taboos are based on irrational fears and social stigma, whether they’re justified or not is beside the point. The issue is that these notions prevent women from asserting their right to bodily integrity. And that means millions of girls and women lack the most basic information about periods. They don’t know how their bodies work, and that makes them vulnerable to exploitation.