I have been coming to India since 2012, but relatively recently I found out that such a usual, normal thing as menstruation even now is a big problem for women in India. I found out by watching a Padman movie, then asking from people around (not believing it), and then reading information and watching documentaries. Needless to say that I was shocked, because I can’t imagine such problem happening in my country, so I didn’t just even think it can be a problem to anybody in the world nowadays, honestly.
I would never have even thought that not every woman in the world these days uses menstrual hygiene products – pads, tampons, menstrual cups. In the movie “Padman” (shot on this issue in Indian villages specifically), was mentioned the number 18 %. Only 18% of women throughout the whole India use menstrual hygiene products! Many women can’t simply afford it! Many also don’t find it normal to use it! The movie was released in 2018 and I dare to assume that the number has grown. But I couldn’t find the statistics for 2019.
Of course, these 18% are mostly the women from big cities of India. The problem is with small towns and villages, and people from there who came to big cities. And the problem is not only in a lack of money (for really many it is expensive, yes), often also in people’s thoughts. “Padman” and other movies show real stories about how some people in India try to create the most inexpensive production of pads or even give them out to women in villages for free, but they dismiss them like evil spirits. Especially if a man tries to distribute them, even if he is a doctor (but if a woman does – not everyone will also take a free packet). Moreover, the movies show real polls of men from villages about what do they think menstruation is? To which some respond that this is some kind of female illness 😠 (there is almost no sex education in India since people are considering it against their culture, so many people don’t actually know about it, not just being arrogant).
Moreover, traditionally in India, menstruation is seen as something dirty. Women are simply shamed for having it. And even now many women (sometimes even in big cities) are forbidden to enter the kitchens and temples, to pick up holy books during “these days”. Although on TV they say that in the past it was done just to give women a break, and then people, as always, turned everything upside down. Women who work and study but can’t afford to buy pads, miss work and studies during “these days” and basically do nothing. Well, in big cities, mothers who allow their daughters to use pads, may not allow them to use tampons and menstrual cups before marriage, because they still believe that they can take away their virginity.
In villages and cities, both, but especially in villages on a state and volunteer basis many educational programs are being conducted in India now. Everyone talks about this issue: television, bloggers, video bloggers, many articles on the Internet are written on this topic. There are many lectures happening on the topic of biological nature of menstruation and the need for hygiene in village schools and among the adult population as well. But, both, teenage girls and adult women of the villages get very shy even hearing the word “menstruation” itself (and some can just get away from the conversation, considering it rude), while in big cities middle class women are not surprised by constant advertising of pads on TV, they are not ashamed to buy them in stores (and even men buy it for their wives and daughters) or can receive online orders of it in 2 hours sometimes from Amazon.
Why is there so much talk about this? The problem is that many women in India received infections due to poor hygiene during menstruation days. Therefore, people want to bring awareness to the masses that menstruation is a normal thing, that menstrual hygiene products must be used, that a woman can live an ordinary life even during “these” days, and that men should not perceive this as something dirty or a disease, but as necessary biological process in the female body, without which even their own birth would not have been possible.
This problem of India has gone far beyond the borders of the country and is discussed at international conferences; volunteers not just from India but from other countries as well often involved in educational programs and campaigns; foreigners also make movies and documentaries about this problem, not just Indians; various brands, both local and foreign, are trying to give jobs to women from Indian villages so that they would be at least slightly independent from their husbands and could afford to buy something themselves….
Although, in other parts of the world it is already said that pads are not the most ecology-friendly product and people need to look for a replacement… And menstrual cups could be a good replacement from the sense of ecology and from the sense of price as well, but they are, without a doubt, much more radical solution for many women still, not only in India, but in another countries as well…
Guys, I highly recommend you to watch the movie “Padman” – movie about a man who, after his wife received the infection due to poor hygiene during menstruation, came up with the way to produce cheap pads, but was kicked out of the village and his wife was terribly ashamed of him… But he did not give up…
I do highly recommend also a documentary “Period. End of sentence ”on Netflix – it is a short film about women from an Indian village who started their own production of cheap pads and tried to distribute them…The film won an Oscar.