May 28 is observed as Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day), a day dedicated to bring awareness that menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays an important role in empowering women and adolescent girls worldwide to become all that they can be. It aims to break the silence around menstrual health and proper hygiene. It aims to diminish various social taboos and norms related to menstruation.
However, even in this modern and developing world, menstruation is considered to be dirty and impure, thereby restricting the advancement of knowledge on this subject. Many girls and women are subjected to restrictions in their daily lives, simply because they are menstruating. Not entering the "puja" room or temple is one of the major restrictions during menstruation, as beliefs of impurity are associated with it. In India, the topic has been a taboo till date. Such taboos about menstruation, present within many societies of the sub-continent, impact the emotional state, lifestyle and health of girls and women. The primary reasons for the continuity of these taboos in the Indian society are due to illiteracy, lack of awareness and poverty. The barriers to adopting menstrual hygiene practices are in three-fold: lack of awareness, lack of acceptance and lack of access.
1. A lack of awareness leads to girls having no prior information about periods before they experience them for the first time. Also, owing to a lack of awareness, they do not prioritize it as an essential health need.
2. A lack of acceptance leads to the term period being negative for women, associated with fear, anxiety and embarrassment. The lack of acceptance means most women want to keep their period a secret, which results in them not using sanitary hygiene products and missing school as a way to manage menstruation.
3. A lack of access to quality hygiene products continues to be a barrier to achieving 100% coverage for menstrual hygiene. It is seen that most of the women do not have the access to proper sanitation and good quality menstrual hygiene. As a result, they use alternatives such as old cloth, rags, sand or ash. Lack of access to the right menstrual products may lead to greater risk of infection.
Ironically, while pregnancy is a celebratory topic, menstruation is still considered as a dark phase, that is supposed to be dealt secretly. Lack of awareness and knowledge leads to missing out on school, work as well as daily work commitments. Girls and women should have access to a range of affordable and appropriate options. Even today in many families, freedom of women continues to be in the hands of patriarchal discourse. With the evolution of these cultures, there has not been any significant change in people’s attitudes and mentality towards menstruation.
There is a need of advocacy for better menstrual health to every woman, especially to those, who are marginalised. They are deprived of healthy and proper hygiene due to poverty and lack of awareness. Therefore, in order to have as well as provide proper facilities during menstruation, it is important for individuals to accept and understand that menstruation (periods) is a normal biological process.