Menstrual Hygiene:A Taboo

Many Of You Might Have Brewed Your Eyebrows In Disdain Or Felt Embarrassed After reading The Caption!!!!

steps for a healthy menstrual hygiene

Chill because it’s not totally your fault.It’s the outcome of the stern patriarchal environment in which we are up-brought.Ironically we are the second largest population in the world but talking about SEX in public is a sin.Hypocritical isn’t it????

Women who cradles the civilization is in sheer danger right now.The reason is lack of proper sanitation facilities and necessary menstrual hygiene which is over burdened with the stigma associated with it.

Every year girls are temporarily or permanently dropped out of primary and secondary schools during the onset of puberty which bears the malice of deplorable ratios of female education statistics with respect to boys of their own age group.

The myth,Taboo

The Menstrual Process

Many people have beliefs, myths and taboos relating to menstruation. Almost always, there are social norms or unwritten rules and practices about managing menstruation and interacting with menstruating women. Some of these are helpful but others have potentially harmful implications. For example, in some cultures, women and girls are told that during their menstrual cycle they should not bathe (or they will become infertile), touch a cow (or it will become infertile), look in a mirror (or it will lose its brightness), or touch a plant (or it will die)

Most striking is the restricted control which many women and girls have over their mobility and behavior due to their ‘impurity’ during menstruation, including the myths, misconceptions, superstitions and (cultural and/or religious) taboos concerning menstrual blood and menstrual hygiene . The diagram below details examples of these restrictions in several Asian countries. Similar restrictions are practiced in other countries around the world.

Restrictions on girls during their menstrual period in Afghanistan, India, Iran and Nepal. Source: HOUSE et al. (2012)

Outcome

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 there is a relation between menstrual hygiene and school drop-out of girls from the higher forms (grade four and five) of primary and secondary education . Research confirms that the onset of puberty leads to significant changes in school participation among girls. In spite of the fact that this has been accomplished in the lower forms of primary education in many developing countries, the participation of girls, in particular in Africa and Asia, lags far behind the participation of boys in the higher forms of primary and secondary education. Besides the fact that girls are married off at an early age in some cultures, many girls are kept at home when they start menstruating, either permanently (drop-out) or temporarily during the days they menstruate. When girls get left behind this can eventually also lead to school drop-out .

The monthly menstruation period also creates obstacles for female teachers. They either report themselves sick or go home after lessons as fast as possible and do not have enough time to give extra attention to children who need it. The gender–unfriendly school culture and infrastructure and the lack of adequate menstrual protection alternatives and/or clean, safe and private sanitation facilities for female teachers and girls undermine the right of privacy, resulting in a fundamental infringement of the human rights of female teachers and girls. Consequently, girls and women get left behind and there is no equal opportunity. Due to this obstacle (promote gender equality and empower women) cannot be achieved either .

Health Risks

There are also health issues to consider apart from the above-mentioned social issues. Poor protection and inadequate washing facilities may increase susceptibility to infection, with the odor of menstrual blood putting girls at risk of being stigmatized . In communities where female genital cutting is practiced, multiple health risks exist. Where the vaginal aperture is inadequate for menstrual flow, a blockage and build-up of blood clots is created behind the infibulated area. This can be a cause for protracted and painful period, increased odor, discomfort and the potential for additional infections .

It is assumed that the risk of infection (including sexually transmitted infection) is higher than normal during menstruation because the blood coming out of the body creates a pathway for bacteria to travel back into the uterus. Certain practices are more likely to increase the risk of infection . Using unclean rags for example, especially if they are inserted into the vagina, can introduce or support the growth of unwanted bacteria that could lead to infection.

As an example, findings from Bangladesh, where 80% of factory workers are women, show that 60% of them were using rags from the factory floor for menstrual cloths. These are highly chemically charged and often freshly dyed. Infections are common, leading to 73% of women missing work for on average six days a month. Women had no safe place either to purchase cloth or pads or to change/dispose of them. When women are paid by piece, those six days away present a huge economic damage to them but also to the business supply chain .

Potential risks to health of poor menstrual hygiene. Source: HOUSE et al. (2012)

 

Infrequently mentioned in studies conducted in developing countries are the simple discomforts, such as lower back pain, bloating, cramping, mood swings, and other symptoms related to menstruation that have been well documented in Western literature. Whereas girls in developed countries generally have access to a range of general – and specific – painkillers and other pharmacological products, girls experiencing similar symptoms in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia do not have access to such ‘luxuries’.

Sanitary protection and disposal

The choice of sanitary protection is very much a personal decision based on cultural acceptability. It is often influenced by a woman’s or girl’s environment and access to funds, water supply and affordable options. It is critical that any program aiming to support women or girls with sanitary protection materials involves them in the planning discussions and decisions about the options to be supported .

Menstrual cups and how to use them. Source: RUBY CUP (2013)

Disposable sanitary towels are the most frequently used methods of managing menstruation. In resource-poor settings they are often prohibitively expensive, bulky to transport and difficult to dispose of. Many women and adolescent girls from poor families cannot afford to buy these hygienic towels . Some girls may even be led to trade sex for small amounts of money in order to purchase sanitary protection materials . But sanitary pads reduce the barriers for girls to stay in school, which are multiple: fear of soiling, fear of odor, and even if there are wash facilities at school, fear of leaving the toilet .

Disposal

Last but not least, good management of menstrual hygiene should obviously include safe and sanitary disposal. This is widely lacking. Where do girls and women dispose of their sanitary products and cloths? Wherever they can do so secretly and easily. In practice, this means the nearest open defecation field, river or garbage dump. This applies to both commercial and home-made sanitary materials . In developing countries, which frequently have poor waste management infrastructure, this type of waste will certainly produce larger problems . For this reason, encouraging menstrual hygiene in developing countries must be accompanied with calculated waste management strategies .

Neglecting menstrual hygiene in wash programs could also have a negative effect on sustainability. Failing to provide disposal facilities for used sanitary materials can result in blocked latrines becoming blocked and quickly filling pits .

Yet, adequate facilities and sanitary protection materials are only part of the solution. In addition, it is necessary to go beyond the practical issues of menstrual management in schools and workplaces, and to use the vehicle of education. Education and information (in combination with hygiene and sex education) empowers women and girls with factual information about their bodies and how to look after them (for example through school campaigns or part of school circular). Presently, teachers are rarely trained in teaching menstrual hygiene and consequently rarely teach it. Male teachers may feel cultural norms forbid them from discussing such topics with young girls. As a result, it is either taught late or not at all .

Empowering women and girls is also necessary so that their voices are heard and their menstrual hygiene needs are taken into account . Because a lack of factual information compounded by the prevalence of myths means that girls’ practical needs related to managing menstruation are often not appreciated or appropriately addressed .

Community wide approaches , which specifically involve boys and men, are promising ways of improving this.Physical barriers to girls and women because of inadequate sanitary means are often connected to social barriers like taboos and stigmas and need to be considered together.

Some Possible Solutions

  1. The taboo around menstruation and eventually menstrual hygiene can be removed if parents are free about this things with their children irrespective of it’s gender.Parents need to have a healthy discussion about menstruation,fertilization process with their children and have to make them feel that it’s a normal phenomenon.

  1. Organizing counselling sessions in private as well as government where they will get to know about their body and it’s behavior.

  2. If we draw a comparison between menstrual cups,tampons and sanitary napkins ,the most feasible and hygienic is menstrual cup which can be used for a span of 4-5 years and does not create bacterial infections or bad odor.
  3. Establishment of government organisation in rural areas to preach the importance of menstrual hygiene in them and urge them keeping yourself clean will keep you away from diseases.
  4. Organizing counselling sessions in private as well as government where they will get to know about their body and it’s behavior.

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