Periods are exasperating. I don’t know anyone who looks forward to “that time of the month”- I certainly don’t! However, for many women around the world, menstruation is far more than a mere annoyance or anxiety. Superstitions and stigma around this natural bodily function jeopardizes the health and welfare of hundreds of women. The general embarrassment that most girls feel when talking about their period says it all. Public reluctance to address the issues regarding female reproductive health seriously inhibits the educational potential of half of the population.
In India where strong taboos surround menstruation, menstruating women are often restricted from cooking, praying or touching men and livestock! Some are even sent away to isolated dwellings for as much as one week a month because ‘menstruating women are considered unclean’.
The stigma around menstrual blood reveals the love-hate relations that our society has with women’s bodies and their sexuality- where it must control it with words like ‘goddess’ and ‘dutiful wife’ or revile it. This vision does not work for me at least anymore and I refuse to accept it.
Echoing the sentiments of every feminist through an ‘audacious’ campaign by Jamia Milia Islamia and Delhi University campuses that brought to light the stigma attached to bleeding every month, Shambhawi Vikram one of the co-coordinators of the campaign spells it out plain and clear, “This is for the freedom to bleed red. Through ‘Come And See The Blood On My Skirt’ we want to push forward the message of ‘Pads against Sexism’.
“With the blood stains on skirts, holding pads, cloths, tampons, condoms, contraceptive pills and many other ‘secrets’ that we want to scream to the world, we plan to go marching, marching down hostile streets, past the pharmacies and the authorities, past the temples and the kitchens, past the markets and the classrooms, showing the blood on our skirts for the messy business that it is!
“We want to do this because all these years we have been taught to hide or hush up the fact that women bleed. And yet, despite all the hushing up and all the bleeding blue that society, media and our families have been piling upon us. Women still continue to bleed and bleed they shall till the end of ‘man’kind.
“This blood that has been marked ‘impure’, ‘dirty’, ‘shameful’, has brought many of us much pain and here we are not talking about menstrual cramps.”
To spread awareness about menstruation, an event was organized by a group of people in which both men and women participated. The group held placards with red stained posters and banners protesting against such social stigma that people are trapped in.
With such marches, I really hope that it will help to dismantle the taboos that shame us and regulate our lives. These campaigns and marches could create, demand and claim the spaces that woman have been asking for for so long.