A natural biological cycle that all women with a functional reproductive system go through. This process is a commonplace transition in a woman’s body, signifying the monthly stage for fertilization is over in the reproductive cycle.
So why are periods considered a taboo?
A glimpse into the past in the subcontinent, and it’s clear to see that without medical intervention, people regarded menstruation as little more than an illness in literature, art and science.
In Islam, women are not allowed to pray nor hold the Holy Quran, but they are allowed recite Surahs and take part in supplication to God (making dua). Somewhere along the lines of ignorance, the fact that women are not allowed to pray on their period, and the years of thinking periods were an illness, made them ‘untouchable‘.
Countries with low literacy rates fair worse than those with a higher rate of primary and secondary school education.
The Taboo Game-Changers
When Aditi Gupta first got her period, she started using rags instead of sanitary pads. She would re-use the rags, cleaning and hiding them away so none of her family members would know she was menstruating.
She would frequently get infections and rashes because of this.
She continued this practice for 5 years till she moved out of the town she lived in. When she was studying in college, she met her future husband Tuhin Paul, with whom she felt comfortable enough to discuss menstruation.
Together, they found that there was so much about the reproductive system that she and other women did not know of.
Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul went on to make a comic and site called Menstrupedia, which made it easy and culturally appropriate for South Asian girls and women to talk about periods with their family and teachers.
While the comic and the site have provided a forum for Indian and Pakistani women to share their feelings, thoughts and issues, UNICEF has also done incredible work in Menstruation Hygiene Management workshops.
A couple of months back, the students of Beaconhouse National University (BNU) in Lahore also spoke out on the stigma surrounding periods. They pasted sanitary pads on the walls with statements disbarring the ‘taboo’ of periods.
While the students were applauded for their courage on speaking out on the ‘sharmindgi’ surrounding it, the shock value of the protest was exactly the reason why it did not have the impact it intended to. In a society where resources and hygiene literacy are scarce, and sensationalization runs rampant, this exact campaign proved to stir the discussion, not start it.