The fight to end period shaming still stands upright. Despite the transition from a conservative society to the modernized one, our unusual culture of shunning menstruation is still wrapped tightly under layers. How could something of this importance not change over 40 to 50 years?
Previously, there was a context where women were not facilitated with proper health care; they couldnâ€™t take measures to keep their body healthy so the idea of not allowing them to the kitchen was fine while the other activities like forcing them to sleep on the cow-shed and such other stuffs were pathetic. Today, at a time we have measures that can sustain a healthy life, we are following the same concepts. It proves how lagging weâ€™re from the civilization and change.
More than 90% of the females donâ€™t go to buy a sanitary napkin if there is a male in the shop. I wonder if itâ€™s the male who they are uncomfortable with or is it their own perception about periods as shame. Sanitary napkins are treated like radioactive isotopes in our society. Though there is no necessity of wrapping them in layers of plastics and newspapers, we have been proudly doing it. We fear to ask people about our basic needs and why it is still not dealt as the one. I wonder!
I wonder why this biological function which, in fact, enables us to give birth to species like them, is still considered unclean by humanity. I remember a few of my schoolmates telling me stories about being made to stay in secluded rooms for days during their first period; not being allowed to gaze the sunshine, with plates of food being left outside of their door during â€˜that time of the monthâ€™ as they were considered impure for that duration. My friend once told me about having to go to a Manakamana Temple on the same day that she got what she calls â€˜the monthly curseâ€™. Unfortunately, they met into an accident. The whole blame started off pointing her as the reason for the result, but not the drunken driver.
Menstruating being one of the most natural functions of the human body is sometimes painful and results discomfort. But we ourselves throw sanitary napkins in secret places; hide them in papers and plastics, making it a big issue and getting embarrassed if anyone notices. I feel sad that we mindlessly follow the tradition and advocate it. It’s high time we speak openly about menstruation in Nepal, a country that truly needs to quash its taboos one at a time.
We hide it by preventing leaks that might bother us and everyone else; by ensuring we donâ€™t, we donâ€™t feel wrong to put menstruation behind locked doors and safely enclose in euphemism.
Where the idea of menstrual leave was for putting rest to the hormonal upheaval, the pain they undergo in the back and belly, the bloating, or the vanished energy. But it has been perceived in a different way in our community.
If most people had conceived menstruation not only as a problem of the â€˜privateâ€™ bodies but also of the â€˜publicâ€™ body, then, perhaps, the social stereotypes about could have been truly undermined. The institutions should also accommodate this to basic human needs (like putting bins in the washroom), or else women might be forced, once again, to stop stepping out during their periods and stay at home as messy and unwanted.
We shouldnâ€™t apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of a misogynist society that will have our body in underwear but not is okay with a small leak of menstrual blood when it at times seeks for pages where women are objectified and treated less than human.
We find some people being comfortable with the sexualisation of women, the violence and degradation of women than this. Despite it being as natural as breathing, we donâ€™t step back from criticizing it to the maximum.
Male and female, both are responsible for bringing this into the society and allowing it to harshly dominate this natural phenomenon. Unfortunately, the absence of masculinity and lack of dialogue between the two sides has paralyzed the potential of a better understanding on how gender functions and look at it more critically, the equal roles of men and women in the society.
For how many times have you been prohibited from entering the temple or the kitchen for having been menstruated? I am sure, many a time. We are hypocrites because we find it perfectly okay to materialize women in images, but find it shameful to illustrate menstruating women. Menstruation is one of the most ignored human rights issues around the globe and it affects the society that outwards to the destruction of the nation.
So, let’s appreciate our body and the functions that come along with it. As we always see the glittering rays of hope in our challenges, I hope to contribute in bringing out the change in this model as well; we together can defy this and invite a huge leap forward for happiness providing all women with a respectful menstrual phase.
By Jamuna Gautam
The writer is currently doing her internship at Glocal Khabar.