“This is how we all do it. We find a corner in the house, where the others can’t see, and then dry them.”

What makes changing this so difficult?

“Inside this area was a string, hanging to the sheets, pointing to which Shefali said, “this is where I put it to dry.” She was talking about the used sanitary cloth which she discretely washes at the bore well … I pointed out to her and said that there is no sunlight in that dingy corner. “How would the cloth dry?” I asked.

In a matter-of-fact manner, she looked at me and said, “It’s a used sanitary cloth. How can we dry it outside? This is how we all do it. We find a corner in the house, where the others can’t see, and then dry them.”

“88 percent of India’s 355 million menstruating women have no access to sanitary pads. “

How?

“Not just health, but lack of menstrual hygiene management takes its toll on the education of young girls… almost 23 percent of girls drop out of school when they start menstruating. In some places as many as 66 percent of girls skip school during this time and one-third of them eventually drop out.”

So, what makes changing this so difficult?

“We don’t talk about these issues.”

 

[Read more at: Why menstruation is a nightmare for many women in India, By Kamala Sripada]

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31 thoughts on ““This is how we all do it. We find a corner in the house, where the others can’t see, and then dry them.”

  1. There are a few people who have decided to talk about this issue but our country has a long way to go. You just reminded me of this TED video:

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  2. We organized a Sex Education session for high school kids last week. Everyone told me No. “The kids will know more than you. They will ask embarrassing questions and see it as time-pass etc etc”. I asked ‘by they know more, do you mean the warped ideas they garner from porn clippings & peers’? This is exactly hat happened. Students didn’t know much. They dont have any qualms about throwing away wrds like fuck and asshole in conversation. But they cannot say the words vagina and penis without cringing. Girls still use code words like chums, ‘out'(?) etc. Boys snigger when they see a sanitary pad.
    We did try to address these. Even our organizers asked us to make the content ‘less controversial’. But we were adamant. I really really hope that at least some students got what w were trying to convey.
    – This from a girl who saw & held a condom for the first time when she was 22 and promptly got fever😀

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  3. Oh no! Menstruation is such a taboo in India and scores of women suffer in silence. Acc. to me, this is what we all should do because everyone counts and we all should work at eradicating this stigma:
    – Firstly, learn about the biological process of menstruation, hormones, ovaries everything. And explain to people who want to listen. Logically, when the same cells that are shed during periods are around the fetus and we don’t have taboos for pregnant women, it will make people question stupid superstitions regarding periods.
    – Talk about it openly whenever you can. Do not be shy. Mention it. Stop using euphemisms like chums, stomach ache (it is not stomach ache, it is uterine cramps), leaking down there. I have noticed that most Asians are shy about it and do not want to talk about it even if they are educated. Break the taboo by talking openly about it. Even with men. You feel sick, don’t say I have fever, say, I have menstrual cramps and I want to rest.
    – Do not try wrapping sanitary napkins in newspaper while buying. Be open about it. You are not smuggling drugs.
    – Teach men about periods.
    – Don’t follow any superstitions regarding periods.
    -This is not my advice but something I really feel is true (this is from Betty Dodson) – Take a mirror and look at your genitals – see where your pee hole is. Where your vaginal opening is. How your vulva looks like. Many women have given birth and had doctors look at their vulvas but they have never examined it themselves. Know your body.
    – Explore menstrual cups. One time cost. Reusable. Can be used for years. Discreet. No disposal issues.
    – Do live demonstrations if we can to show that pickles do not get spoilt or plants do not die because women on periods touch them.

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    • Many argue that the restrictions some communities have on women who are menstruating are actually beneficial to them…By ‘banning’ them from entering the kitchen etc. they are ‘forced’ to rest…I don’t quite buy into this argument…Why label menstruating women unclean when all you want them to do is rest? If they want to rest, they should be able to rest and if they don’t they should be able to continue with their lives…

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      • Exactly my point. Why treat adults like babies? If/when they need rest, they need rest, simple. There is no need to couch need for rest in terms like ‘banned from entering kitchen’ and such.

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      • I think it should be taught in schools but should begin at home, if one cannot teach their own child how can they teach someone else’s children. I made sure my son knew all about body,puberty,sex etc., right before they started the health ed at school. so i could get to him before they did🙂
        I’m teaching my daughter about menstruation not some strange teacher, what they do should be reinforcement not original information.

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        • I get your point, but many people of my parents generation at least where I grew up weren’t aware as to how to broach the topic or speak about it in general. And this is why I think it should be taught in schools.. as the chances are that not every parent are aware of such subjects themselves either. It is a taboo not to talk openly about it even till date. In united states and in many of the private schools in India would talk about it when kids are about to enter puberty.

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    • “You are not smuggling drugs.”
      Exactly !! I wonder why buying hygiene supplies have to be such a clandestine affair. It is part of a bigger scheme in which we are reluctant to talk about things.

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  4. Not only is this topic considered a big taboo, but it is also a tool to control the lives and freedom of females. Most teenage girls in rural India give up going to school because of lack of facilities and awareness towards menstruation.

    Having a friend discriminated and labelled impure during her periods recently made me write a post on this topic. I would like to share it here with IHM’s permission.

    http://mindzpeak.blogspot.in/2014/05/the-impure-cycle.html

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  5. This post reminds me about mom.During 60s and 70s,pads were not available so easily and were costly at least relatively. Actually, they are still costly but urban women are working and therefore buying them.
    My mom has never used pads,but she had access to water,bathroom and hygiene and soap.
    We are 3 sisters,..still my parents spent on napkins while being on low income throughout our teenage years.
    However, my mom did not let me help her when she made pickles,….she told me abt not watering plants but we never listened to her .She never made us feel weird abt it though
    Only thing I follow is for namaz and for other religious details.But most girls, I know keep hiding their periods, try to look non chalant even if they are feeling sick.
    I guess they are going out of the way to not let the men around them know.
    Guys in india don’t know women menstruate ??

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  6. menstrupedia.com/

    We could start the dialog. Let’s talk to the less privileged/educated folk that we come across. Things will improve, slowly, VERY slowly, but surely.

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  7. Wow I was not aware of this. It is so terrible that a girl should miss out on school simple because of a lack of hygiene supplies. The topic really needs to stop being so taboo. Its a normal bodily function.

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  8. The same cells that are shed during menstruation help create babies. If we consider this unclean, then are babies unclean? And does that make the whole human race unclean? How illogical is that?
    Boiling gave an excellent list of things to do. Also this guy Arunachalam on the TED talk link above was amazing.
    I have 2 sons, hence am the only woman in the family. I made sure my sons understand that menstruation is a natural, healthy, biological process, that is essential for humans (or any other species) to continue to exist.

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  9. The stigma against menstruation needs to go. This is the only way that women will feel comfortable seeking adequate help for themselves. Heck, the stigma against women’s bodies needs to go. It is your vehicle in life, not a reservoir of sin, nor is it something disgusting. Nor are its bodily functions disgusting. It is a normal part of your life, it is a process that is biological and healthy, not gross and disgusting. Let’s all treat it in a mature responsible way, please.

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  10. Haha… that’s asking a lot, I think. You know what was trying to take the shape of a taboo at my place? Underwear. Science and logic says, you take the greatest care in washing your innerwear for reasons of hygiene, and dry them out in the sun, which is the most hygienic thing you can do in this respect. I grew up in a home that had four women so we never thought about underwear in this manner. But, surprise, when I got married, the first of the instructions I received was about hanging my innerwear somewhere away from others’ eyes. Mind you, I have a nice private lawn, and a nice little clothes hanger, all very cosy, very protected. My eyes had the temerity to squint in disbelief at that. So she explained that FIL wouldn’t want to see that, plus, it’s not respectful (to whom, I did not bother to ask). I was told how her (MIL’s) mother took care to teach them these things and I was asked if my mother did not exercise due diligence (obviously not). And let me say that this instruction was conveyed more than 5 times on various occasions. To this day, my FIL gives me a dirty look everytime he steps out and sees my things hanging, notwithstanding the fact that his son’s, his own, and his wife’s (who is also a woman) things are all hanging out there too. I was advised to use “your personal bathroom” for this purpose because public display of such things was bad. They call me a daughter but can’t see me as one. Or, maybe this is what they would be telling their daughter too. And how sad would that be. So there! The great Indian traditional family.

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    • Yes, you are right..not only to you but most indians in general will tell their daughter in laws as well. It is considered norm in most parts of India. I hate to agree to the fact that -Despite being so called “Educated” I did follow what the normal convention was until I learned that there is nothing wrong in treating underwear like any other cloth. *Sigh*.. you see it is all in the mind and I call it as ignorance and blindly following the rules and conventions that were set.
      And you are doing what is right and hygienic versus being submissive to their thought process. May be a good opportunity for you to teach them why it shouldn’t bother them..?

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    • When your FIL sees your undies, he in fact has an insight in your sexuality with his son… Shrinks would have to agree with your MIL on that one.

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      • My dear Victoria, Yeah. I see. What do the shrinks have to say about the insights into my FIL’s sexuality with his wife that I or my husband (and their son) may be gathering? Or about the insights into my husband’s sexuality that my MIL and FIL may be gathering, or my parents, let’s bring them in as well . You can look at anyone’s undies as much as you want, you can’t gain an insight into their sexuality. Besides, how is a 27-year-old DIL’s sexuality different from a 27-yr-old daughter’s? Know what, my sexuality did not matter to anyone when I was 16. But, now I am married, it matters to my In laws and it will keep mattering even when I turn 50 or more. My MIL’s undies can hang unchallenged, in fact, even her bra straps can dogear her shoulders as much as they want to. ‘coz she’s the mother. I, on the other hand, in 48 deg C heat, am expected to wear saris while my FIL chills out in nothing but a vest. Not a pretty sight that believe me.
        And finally, having an insight into someone’s sexuality (if gaining it is even possible by looking at their mundane undies) if that person isn’t waving it in your face in a provocative manner, why is that so problematic? We are talking about adults here, aren’t we? I’d say to him, gather away… hahaha. Why is it that only my sexuality as a DIL would bother people? You see, one way to make sense here would be for everyone to stick to a private clothesline in their own private corners. What do your shrinks have to say about that?

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