To shame or not to shame, is not a question


May 16, 2018-

I first associated periods with shame when my teacher humiliated me in front of the class because I had a red stain on my pants. I couldn’t put my finger on what I did wrong or where I went wrong, but I remember heading home, drenched in shame and embarrassment. Back then, I was very young and too naïve to tell right from wrong. It was about that time that I developed the habit of asking my friends to check for stains on my back during my periods. You wouldn’t want the world to know that ‘it’s that time of the month’.

It was only after a few years that I embraced the fact that I have a uterus and I naturally bleed once every month. There is nothing I can do about it, and there probably is nothing I should do about it. It took me some time to internalise the fact that there is nothing to be ashamed of menstruation as it is a biological process. Luckily, my friends were supportive too—including male friends. They gave me the confidence to talk about it openly and point out how wrong it is to stigmatise something that is so natural.

I have been lucky to have a support system, but not everybody is as lucky as I am. A large number of people still look at menstruation from a very conservative perspective. There are so many people, both in urban and rural areas, who associate periods with shame and embarrassment and treat as something that is dirty and objectionable.

Clearly, there is a lack of education about this subject. Both men and women need to be educated about what menstruation is and how it works.

There was an instance where a 25-year-old man suggested that my sister wear some pads to relieve her period pains. Upon being inquired where he got the idea from, he said he thought that’s how sanitary napkins work because well that’s how TV advertisements promote it—you can run during your periods if you wear pads! He didn’t know that the main purpose of a menstruation pad is to absorb flow of blood from the vagina. Perhaps, his health teacher in school, like most health teachers in most schools including my own, skipped the chapter altogether, because it would have been ‘inappropriate’ or ‘awkward’ to talk about menstruation and menstrual hygiene.

It is such a shame that schools don’t pay enough attention to the fact that reproductive health is a crucial subject that should be touched and taught thoroughly. Instead of being a place where young girls are instilled with the confidence to embrace their femininity, schools nurture an environment where they are pushed to be ashamed of who they are and what their bodies go through.

It is high time that we change our perspective and approach towards dealing with menstruation. And I believe change begins with us and right where we stand. 

I have educated myself and now begun to educate people around me. My little brother, for instance, knows which pad I use when I am bleeding and what medicine I take when I suffer from period pains. I have taught him everything about menstruation so that he knows what a girl goes through during her periods and why it is not a taboo. I have taught him that it is okay, when necessary, for men to buy menstrual hygiene products for women in their lives.

I really hope that there will come a day when no health teacher skips chapters on menstruation. I really wish there will come a day where no parent restricts their daughter from entering the kitchen and puja kotha, let alone the house.

I want to see a day where shopkeepers do not wrap pads with newspapers as if it is contraband. 

Menstruation is not a matter of shame, ignorance about it is.

Sapkota is a student at Trichandra Campus

Published: 16-05-2018 08:48

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