It’s Time to Break the Silence on Menstruation and End Stigma Attached to Periods in Indian Society
- There is a need for education about what women go through during their cycles. Girls and women should be made to feel comfortable and confident in embracing this natural process and sharing their experiences.
Menstruation is a biological process that occurs in every woman’s life. While some women are openly allowed to speak about this process, it is considered taboo in countries like India. As a result, women are subjected to social stigma and discrimination during their menstrual cycles. The stigma surrounding menstruation is a phenomenon for many in India, especially women. The social stigma around menstruation, among others, is because of patriarchal and cultural beliefs.
Menstruation is viewed negatively, even though it is an essential biological process in women. One of the main reasons is the patriarchal mindset in Indian society. Women are viewed as inferior to men, and menstruation is seen as a sign of weakness and impurity.
Indian culture strongly believes in natural processes, which makes it a question why India cannot accept menstruation. The menstrual cycle is seen as harmful or offensive. A survey conducted by WaterAid India found that “70 percent of Indian women feel embarrassed and ashamed during their menstrual cycles.” Women are often subjected to discriminatory practices during their periods, such as being excluded from religious activities, not being allowed to enter the kitchen or touch particular objects, and being forced to sleep separately.
Women are prohibited from visiting temples or participating in religious ceremonies during this time. Due to social norms, women are treated like outcasts and not respected by their families. Because of this shame and embarrassment, women struggle to speak to professionals about their menstrual cycles.
Social stigma and proper menstrual hygiene facilities need to improve in public places. According to a National Family Health Survey survey, “only 58% of women in India use sanitary napkins during their menstrual cycles.” The rest of the women use cloth, rags, and other unhygienic materials to manage their periods. This lack of access to menstrual hygiene products can lead to severe health problems and infections.
According to the Swachh Bharat Mission, “Over 50 percent of households in India do not have access to basic sanitation facilities.” This lack of sanitation facilities makes it challenging for women to manage their periods confidently. Women are forced to use unhygienic toilets or go without proper sanitation facilities.
Many girls in rural areas drop out of school once they start their menstruation because they lack menstrual products. A study conducted by AC Nielsen and Plan India stated, “23 percent of girls in India drop out of school once they start menstruating.” This affects mental health when discriminated against and excluded from society. The shame and stigma surrounding menstruation can significantly impact women’s mental health. According to a study by the Indian Journal of Community Medicine, 44 percent of women in India suffer from anxiety and depression during their menstrual cycle. Many women feel isolated and alone during their periods and are afraid to talk about their experiences. This can have long-term effects on their well-being.
To divert from social stigma, there must be awareness. Society should be educated about menstruation and what women go through during their cycles. Women should feel comfortable and confident in embracing this natural process and sharing their experiences. Menstrual products should be implemented in public spaces like schools and the workplace. No one should feel ashamed for something they don’t control. It’s time to break this silence and speak about menstruation to create a more inclusive and compassionate society.
Listen to Rhea Krishnan’s podcast on this subject.
Sanjog Dandona is a junior at Rutgers Preparatory School. She started writing for American Kahani in her freshman year. She enjoys reading, writing, and painting.