Every girl and woman spends a large part of her life dealing with menstruation. It’s a normal body function that cleanses our bodies, and menstruation is exactly what makes us capable of bearing children. And yet, menstrual-shaming is quite common in India.
Not only are there a number of superstitions attached to menstruation–all of which alienate and isolate women during those 3-7 days of the month–but the idea that having your period makes you dirty, untouchable and a subject of ridicule is also quite rampant.
A recent case in a school in Tamil Nadu has brought this issue into focus once again. A 12-year-old girl allegedly committed suicide after being shamed by her teacher for staining her school uniform and the class bench.
This is just one of those many incidents that happen across our nation, and it indicates that while we’re making great strides in certain aspects of our lives, we’re still stuck to primitive beliefs that develop insecurities in a large part of our population.
Tuitions, the new menstrual-education zone
Parents, teachers, boys and girls–are these all the spheres we need to cover to generate better awareness about periods? Not really. “Apart from school teachers, tuition teachers also have a responsibility,” says Goswami, who has been taking tutorial classes for the last nine years in Kolkata. “Though there are many coaching institutes in India, most students go to teachers’ homes for tuitions,” she explains.
And it’s true. Tuition and coaching classes have increasingly become places where education is imparted, and talking about periods should be a part of it, especially because it is more of an informal space. “They are comfortable there, so they ask all the questions they need answers to, ranging from periods to the blue whale challenge,” Goswami says.
This is a space apart from homes and schools that need to be focused on as well. Tutors in India need to be as responsible, open-minded and progressive as school teachers and parents do.
Creating a safe space for young girls and women–before, after, and during their period is a shared responsibility, and anybody who is in a position to impart education in any form needs to participate in this process.