India’s 69 Republic Day celebration was historic in may ways. In addition to bringing it close to the 10 ASEAN nations, who’s chiefs had arrived a day before on invitation of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to commemorate the 25 years of India-ASEAN relations and be the Chief guest on the 26 January 2018. This years republic Day Parade 2018 witness a new record being set by the Border Security Force (BSF) women soldier, who displayed audacious acrobats on moving motorcycles, making a megaanimous debut into the Republic Day arena.
With the breathtaking performance of these Braveheart women soldiers, entire world saw the role women will be playing in New India that PM Modi has been talking about all over the world. On top of it the news that just a few days before, the Women Defence Minister of India took her maiden flight in an fighter Jet, should make women in India even more proud and willing to take on the preferred path to realise ones dreams.
No doubts, many challenges persist and the transformation to New India will take time. But, then at least, the Indian women have started to come upfront fighting so called taboos. Women in India from time immemorial had been compromising on their hygiene not just due to financial dearth but also due to the poor knowledge of the health issues that may surface or the diseases that they can run into. Here, one of the significant challenges women need to come over with is the taboos around menstrual cycle.
It is so ironical, a women till date is subjected to so many testing’s. Be it menstruation (which is a necessary and healthy evil and a women almost have no control over it) or the whole fighting virginity saga (which is just a reflection of the sick patriarch cal society we still live in). There are myriad myths with menstruation like a woman cannot wash her hair, must not enter kitchen, must consume bland food during those days. One may wonder if such restrictions do any better as those five days are a struggle in itself.
In India its not strange to find a sign board at the entrance of few temples addressing women, which most of us would have encountered, that says, “be honest and not enter the temple if one is having periods”, meaning a women cannot offer prayer to the almighty if she menstruating as our mythology considers woman impure during those difficult related days. And God forbid, if you have any such inevitable upcoming event, women will sought to different desperate measures to postpone it like swallowing pills etc..
But, with more liberal interpretation- menstruation is even celebrated in certain part of India. “Raja Parba”, a three day long affair observed in Odisha, which is based on the premise that the Mother Goddess Earth or the divine wife of Lord Vishnu is menstruating. Though the best part of the festivity is that girls get to break free from the household chores and enjoy themselves, shopping, dressing up nicely and gorging on their favourite feast are the add ons.
Even in 21st century, a mother will not tell or prepare her daughter even when she has attained puberty, can you gauge the barrier?? Our patriarchy society is such that women still feel hitch to buy sanitary napkins. They will prefer to carry a chit on which inscribed the name of the sanitary napkin, get it wrapped in the newspaper or ask for a dark carry bag from the shopkeeper. Few women ensure the shop must not be crowded. Ignorance is no bliss, at-least not in this sensitive issue. Accessibility issue is there in large part in India but taboos make the situation more worst when there is water everywhere but not a drop to drink.
Health issues related with poor menstruating hygiene are devastating. Lethal infections can ensue in the urinary tract or female reproductive system if proper menstruating hygiene is not followed. Changing pad three to four times a day especially during heavy flow (initial days) is usually recommended. She must remain dry as excessive wetting predispose to infection. Disposable pads are best but in case it is required to use the same cloth/rag, it must be washed properly and dried in proper light. Drying is other challenge especially in rural India. In India, drying a woman’s lingerie is dried at a place where no one can see it, think about drying those intimate pieces of rags/cloth.
Prevention is better than cure, therefore along with accessibility and affordability issues, proper use and awareness holds the key to unlock a healthier womanhood- both rural and urban set-ups.