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Breaking the menstrual taboo: Moving beyond the gender divide

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  13 April 2015 12:00 AM GMT

New Delhi, April 12: Toronto-based poet Rupi Kaur’s image showing blood-stained pants was recently deleted by a mobile photo and video sharing service Instagram, stating it goes “against community guidelines”. Menstruation has always been a “taboo” subject resulting in a conspicuous silence surrounding this tural body function in women. Experts feel this silence needs to be replaced with a conversation that would result in changing mindsets from rejection to confidence. Despite women’s emancipation, many girls and women still face rejection during “those days” and are asked to not visit a temple, not to attend pujas, not cook food, sit on separate beds and not discuss it with the male members of the family.

“Menstruation is a taboo across the globe. Myths associated with it are mostly observed in developing countries especially in villages. Many boys/men doen’t even know the basic science/biology behind menstrual hygiene. Until and unless we create basic awareness about menstrual hygiene among girls, women, boy and men the situation will not change,” Jaydeep Mandal, founder, of Aakar Innovations that ebles women to produce and distribute affordable, high-quality compostable sanitary pkins within their communities, told IANS. Nupur Gupta, consultant and unit head, gynecologist and obstetrician at Gurggaon’s Paras Hospital, said breaking a taboo starts with broaching the subject.

“The best place to do so is in schools, where the topic can be incorporated into hygiene and sexual education. This requires sound knowledge (and in some cases also the courage of teachers) on how to use sanitary items and related issues,” Gupta told IANS. Understanding that menstruation is a distinct biological female attribute women should be “proud” of needs to be fostered, she added.

Kathy Walkling, co-founder at Eco Femme, a social enterprise working in the area of menstrual hygiene magement, said that consequences of this include adolescent girls not given accurate preparatory information prior to onset of menstruation. Listing the other consequences, Walkling told IANS: “Insufficient attention in society to the needs of adolescent girls for privacy and a dignified way to mage menstruation, expectations of girls and women to adhere to many rules and restrictions that for many are perceived as constraining (e.g. not entering temple) and for those who cannot afford it and adoption of unhealthy practices such as using unsanitary materials to absorb the menstrual flow.”

Serving the needs of economically disadvantaged girls and women in India, Eco Femme provides menstrual health education and free washable pads to adolescent girls through its Pad-forPad programme. (IANS)

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