Periods! A word much looked down upon in society, as if by speaking about it the person hearing it or speaking it would be cursed, and yet periods are one of the most natural processes for not only human beings but for animals as well. To state such a natural process as impure and unnatural only creates a stereotypical false narrative. The social stigma attached to periods has been there since time immemorial. This very stigma has generated less attention to periods and menstruating women and has created both period poverty and period depravity, both in the materialistic sense of the term as well as the psychological sense of the term. This article aims to highlight the divide that has been created between menstruating women and menstruation. Further, this article aims to highlight the stigma attached to periods and how such stereotyping has led to period poverty in India.
WHAT IS PERIOD POVERTY?
1UNICEF in its recent report on Guidance on Menstrual Health and Hygiene defines Menstrual health and Hygiene as – ‘encompassing the broader systemic factors that link menstruation with health, well-being, gender equality, education, equity, empowerment, and rights. These systematic factors as mentioned in the same report, have been summarised by UNESCO as accurate and timely knowledge, available, safe, and affordable materials, informed and comfortable professionals, referral and access to health services, sanitation and washing facilities, positive social norms, safe and hygienic disposal, and advocacy and policy.’ It can thus be inferred that Period poverty is as the lack of all the above mentioned components in a woman’s life that is. 2To be precise, period poverty is defined as the struggle many low-income women face while trying to afford menstrual products. Period Poverty has been aggravated because of the lack of access to safe, hygienic sanitary products for women as well as the social stigma attached to it, which is causing it to become a hindrance for their own holistic development. Period poverty is a serious issue all over the world, especially in the developing and the less developed countries of the world where there is a lack of material resources as well as the heightened social stigma attached to it. Nevertheless, the importance of menstruation has been mentioned in the 3UN’s Sustainable Development goals –
1. Gender Equality
2. Good health and well being
3. Quality Education
4. Clean Water and Sanitation
5. Decent work and Economic Growth
6. Responsible Consumption and Production
The effects of period poverty are overarching, its effects are felt in the holistic development of both girls and women and has become a hindrance from achieving a good and a dignified life.
VICTIMISATION AND PERIOD POVERTY IN INDIA
To understand the extent of period poverty in India we shall look at some data and facts related to periods. According to a report by the Indian Ministry of Health, 4only 12% of women have exposure to proper period products, the remaining 88% are dependent on unsafe material like rags, cloth, hay ash amongst other unsafe alternatives. Women have become victims of period poverty and the repeated cycle of ‘continuous discontinuities’ between periods and women have led to harmful implications for women all over the country.
To understand these implications, we shall first delve into the causes behind period poverty and then focus on its impact. The society has not bridged the gap, rather the society has knotted the untied knot and has cut out this natural connection
PERIOD POVERTY: THE KNOTTING OF TIES
The causes of Period Poverty are manifold including-
PERIOD POVERTY: A TWISTED SPIRAL OF EFFECTS
Due to these causes, the effects intertwined and becomes a further twisted tale of effects –
A WAY OUT?
What can be a way out to eradicate period poverty in a country where most of the population is below the poverty line? A much progressive step has been taken by Scotland which has made the availability of all sanitary products free for use for all consumers, becoming the first country in the world to take such an advance step forward.
In India many schemes have been formulated to ensure the accessibility of sanitary products for the population. These include-
Such efforts are always welcome however India has a long way to go to eradicate period poverty.
BRIDGING THE GAP
From time immorality the society has downplayed the effects of periods and their inherent connection between periods and women, society has always cut down the interwoven knot between the two. The huge gap the society has created, the series of social discontinuities between women and periods have only aggravated period poverty. A whole reformation in the societal mindset is needed, one can do so at an individual level disseminating information and making it into a collective effort. We can bridge the gap if we all come together and fight the otherwise stereotypically conditioned society.