Menstruation: A Social and Biological Struggle

Menstruation is a bodily function where the vagina discharges blood coming out of the uterus. It occurs every month (or every 4-5 weeks) and lasts for about 3 to 6 days. The time and duration differ from person to person. In most girls, it starts when they’re 12-13 years old while in some, it may be until 15, provided there are no health conditions. From there on, it goes on till 45-50 years old after which begins another phase, called menopause.

However, you may also experience abdominal or back pain, mood swings or setbacks, food cravings, fatigue, bloating or sore breasts, etc. These are also included in PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome), a condition indicating your onset of periods. All of these symptoms are normal and happen to a majority of women.

Gist of Menstruation

The menstrual cycle every month prepares a woman’s body for pregnancy. The ovaries produce hormones that create a thick spongy lining made of tissues and blood around the uterus to hold the eggs after fertilization. When the eggs aren’t fertilized, the wall breaks and blood flows out. So that’s briefly how your period starts.

Be watchful

  • if you’re 15 and still haven’t got your periods.
  • if the cycle is often irregular (occurring once in a few months or twice in a month).
  • if you notice anything usual in your body (probably making you uncomfortable).
  • if there is heavy blood flow.
  • if the period lasts for more than a week or is too short (for a day or two).
  • if you suffer from unbearable pain/cramps every time during periods.
  • if it hinders your day-to-day basic activities.

It is advisable to consult a doctor if any or a combination of these signs occur.

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Keeping track of your cycle goes a long way!

Socio-cultural Taboo

India is a land where people choose to follow tradition over logic, blindly because the latter challenges their orthodox supremacy. Despite us living in the 21st century, menstruation is a rarely talked about topic. In some cultures, it is in fact, a taboo.

Survey reports show a drastic gap between the haves and have nots (female users of pads). Access to sanitary napkins is as low as around 20% of the entire menstruating population. Moreover, 23 million girls drop out of school every year due to a lack of accessibility to pads.

The deprivation of basic menstrual hygiene is extremely critical because of minimal awareness amongst people. A packet of cigarettes is proudly sold and bought (even though it comes with a warning of severe health injuries) whereas a sanitary pad is a symbol of embarrassment in public (when is actually a life-saving product).

Menstruation is considered the impurest time of the month by people in many countries. Women withdraw themselves from going into the kitchen (many oppressed sections of the society limit women to housework) and religious places (or from any auspicious occasions). They are asked to follow a lot many do’s and don’ts. Period problems are whispered, (not discussed) in hushed voices especially in front of a male member.

You see that’s where the problem lies! Patriarchy has cultivated women oppression in our country. Denying or neglecting a problem related to women, which is indeed a question of life or death in some cases especially with limited hygiene products, is a prime example of how we are debarred from our entitlement to basic health and freedom.

More than 70% of our female population are unaware of the menstrual cycle given the insufficiency of the education system and of course the lack of parent to child conversation on such a delicate yet important issue. Hence, they grow up suffering in silence and shame.

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Addressing the Severity

India is a developing country and covers a large number of people below the poverty line making the ‘period problem’ much more significant. Women from the economically backward sections of the society have no choice but to adopt unhygienic methods such as dried leaves, ash, old clothes (which is reused several times), mud or newspaper as a replacement for pads or tampons. This leads to major bacterial infections and other serious diseases. To put the problem into perspective, a full one time meal is cheaper than a packet of sanitary napkins. In this case, it is natural for them to save for food and opt for affordable substitutes of pads even if they result in potentially fatal conditions.

There are a bunch of myths related to periods and the public isn’t aware of the truth behind these things. The education system doesn’t promote open discussions. Unfortunately, people who voice out their concerns on social media are heavily trolled and criticised for being too forward. Some label it as going against their religion or culture while some gaslight women for bringing the western influence into our land. Ironically enough, many faiths worship Goddesses in their religious buildings but refuse to allow menstruating women to enter. A huge paradox in itself!

Break the Stigma

It’s the year 2021, yet here we are arguing for the most basic human right. Let’s not wait or delay any further. It’s high time we accelerate the ongoing revolution. A small step a day, starting from our own place. Talk! Men need to be taught and prepared for this as much as women do. The only way to eradicate discrimination is by making everyone understand the importance of knowing, without being gender-biased.

Gratefully, there are many campaigns running every day to fight the same and they surely have created a difference! It is now our turn to join in by doing our bit. Don’t shy away from openly talking about periods. Educate people around you. Convince the elders in your family to accept that this isn’t an impurity (in fact, a nature made process). Start teaching the children from a younger age the biological processes in the human body.

Menstruation

No shame. No bias. “Men buy pads too”. Let us all smash the taboo and see menstruation normally, as it should be!

FOR A DETAILED STUDY:

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Sansthiti Adwika
A keen learner on board 🙂 Reach out and connect with me.

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