Why is it that the Indian society at large has taken an unbreakable vow of silence on periods? Why? Because that is overtly gross? With innumerable euphemisms doing the rounds, why at all do we shy away from this natural process of the human body? This monthly visitor is what makes our lives. It is the 21st Century, and we are still talking about to throw light on this age-old phenomenon of the human body. Sad!
India's women have been suffering since long. Menstruation has been a topic not-to-talk-about. The so-called female portion of the society, constituting a total of 65.2 crores, out of 135 crores, has been suffering day and night, and not even raising their voice. The phlegm of the patriarchal society and the government is worsening the issue. The two major issues that must be urgently addressed are affordability and awareness. Indian women are suffering badly during their menstrual cycle and statistics are even more alarming and saddening. Read on to know the ground reality of women, when they are surfing the crimson wave!
Most of us must be aware that sanitary napkins are not so widely used in our country. There are arguments that as high as 88% of Indian women do not use them. Amongst these startling stats comes this story from Anshu Gupta, the owner of the NGO, Goonj. While he was travelling, a woman from Firozabad recited this incident to him, wherein her sister-in-law who, in the lack of a proper cotton cloth, had repurposed an old synthetic blouse into something that could soak menstrual blood. She forgot that there was a loose hook in it, that eventually ended up in her vaginal tract only to leave badly infected. She soon died from the severe infection.
At present, the cheapest sanitary napkin costs about 25-30 rupees for a pack of 10. Even this is a huge amount of women who would buy ration instead. Here comes another grassroot report of the village in Kendrapara, Odisha. 37-year-old Meenakshi Shetty says that where at the price of the cheapest napkins, families can buy rations for several days, why will we at all think of even buying them.
It is found that, at present, the imposition of GST on sanitary napkins will amount to a tax of 14%, as opposed to 12.5% presently. Because it is only a hike of 1.5%, there is little concern that GST will worsen the already miserable situation. This is because even minus the taxes already levied, the sanitary napkins are still beyond their purchasing power.
The easy availability and affordability of alternate options such as cotton cloth is also an issue of concern. Gayatri Mishra, secretary of Sakhi Sangam, a self-help group for women in the northern fringes of Delhi, got this information that getting cut-cloth for Rs.10 a kilo is a cheaper option. A kilo of cloth can last for about 2-3 months for a woman. And let me tell you, even this is a luxury for most of the women in the country.
Some women, living in dire poverty often tie cow dung cakes to their bodies during their menstrual cycle. This comes in when they cannot even afford that piece of cotton cloth. This is where the government must intervene and help these women live those days of the month in a little less stress.
The problem is blown when women are schooled and conditioned to keep quiet about their problems, and they do so! We see illiterate people, malnourished kids on the roads, population explosion, but we rarely see any woman struggling with her periods. Ever wondered why? This is because of the patriarchal assumption 'they're women, they'll have to manage'. This thought process robs women and their problems of the importance that they must duly receive.
In 2012, Centre For Social Research tried to distribute sanitary napkins at Rs.11 for a packet of 10, but the initiative had to be aborted within three months. Many people feel that manufacturing of cost-effective sanitary napkins isn't considered a 'sexy enough' project to flaunt. This questions the employment opportunities that would come the way of women who would work in the sanitary pads manufacturing units.
This should be equally present in men. They must also be aware of the process and the problems that a woman has to face during the menstrual cycle. This education will be of great help for the lower sections of the society where men satisfy their cravings for luxury and put women's basic necessities in the backseat.
And also on the maintenance of cotton cloth which they must be using. How they must be washed and dried, or burnt rather.
Jayaashree Industries, owned by Arunachalam Muruganantham, known as India's 'pad-man'. Arunachalam has said that it costs Rs.1.5 and Rs.2.5 per pad and the costs could be further reduced with government subsidies. The government must encourage and boost such players in the market and indulge in the welfare of the society, both ways, from employment to wellness.
We just wish that when as simple a product as Coca-Cola can reach ground zero, why can't sanitary napkins?! Thus, let us all start working in this direction to make lives of women a little less difficult.