Periods are pure

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One fine morning on waking up, I realized my pants were wet. I rushed to the toilet and found my panty was all red with blood. That scared me. My head began whirling with cascades of anxious questions – “Am I ill?” “Did I do anything wrong?” What else could I think? I was, after all, a small girl, who was confronted in the early morning by the unprecedented “happening” in my body. At first I felt too awkward to tell it to anyone, but I summoned enough courage to confide it to mom. She handed me a long white strap of cotton. I was to know later that it was a sanitary pad.

This was my experience of menarche (beginning of menstruation). I feel that almost all girls share similar first experience. But not all of them confide it to others to know what is happening, and spend weeks and even months feeling guilty and secretly hoping that someone will come to their rescue. But why should this hesitation exist in the first place? If menstruation is a natural process girl experiences every month, why don’t we prepare our young daughters mentally beforehand? Is menstruation obscene? Is it something we should keep mum about?

No, menstruation should not be a taboo as it is considered to be in Hindu societies. In Hindu communities, menstruating women are not allowed to enter kitchen or temple, and they are barred from any festival or ritual because they are considered to be impure. Practice such as chhaupadi pratha in western Nepal where a menstruating female is compelled to live in cowshed only exemplifies discriminatory social attitude towards menstruation. While women during their periods have more dietary needs than during their normal time, the ‘impure’ tag attached to menstruation means that in many places, they are ironically forced to abstain from nutritious foods like milk, yoghurt, meat.

Personally, I was on my first day of period this Laxmi Puja. Without a tint of fear or shame, I enjoyed Tihar, from making rangoli to playing deusi bhailo and putting Bhai Tika. And I am confident that I have not committed any “sin”.

Far from being what negative connotations attached to it like “sin” and “impure” imply, menstruation is a normal, natural process. It is simply the shedding of the epithelial lining of a female’s uterus along with some mucus and blood. Just like a regular heartbeat is a sign of physical wellbeing, regular menses is something to feel good about. It means that a female is healthy and that she will be able to conceive if she wants to. In fact, not having periods can be a sign of sterility or chances that the concerned female cannot have a normal delivery. So, bleeding is a blessing indeed.

But this is not to undermine the issue of menstrual hygiene since women are prone to infection during menstruation. Sanitary pads must be made available in all districts and taxes imposed on them must be reduced so that they are affordable to all. No girl should be forced to use unclean clothes or dried leaves to absorb the menstrual blood. The government could use the Menstrual Hygiene Day that is observed across the globe on May 28 every year.

Social media can become powerful tools to spread information about and education individuals and communities about menstruation. definitely put an end to those days where we will have to whisper at our friend’s ears to ask for a pad and hid it inside our pockets while rushing it into the bathroom to change.

(Subedi is a third year MBBS student at KIST Medical College)

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