Menstruation: a taboo or a blessing in disguise?
Saksham Kumar, Student, New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth, Pune
Gender equality has been a subject matter of scrutiny since time immemorial. India has been tackling the severe issue of patriarchy. One must follow what they preach. When it comes to gender inequality in India, UNDP's report throws light on the misfortune of gender inequality as according to that report in the Gender Inequality Index, India stands at the rank 127.
One such controversial matter of antsy gender inequality is menstrual taboo due to which it has proved to be a hindrance since the past until now, which bars the knowledge and awareness about this aspect of menstruation. This very menstrual taboo makes a woman subjected to perturb and perturbation and ostracism of women who are menstruating from their own kitchen and religions places of worship ( such as temples and even the place of worship at their own household) adds up to their anguish and marks to be another constraining practice against women in India. It keeps them deprived of ample socio-cultural aspects of life.
A woman once she is subjected to menstruation, she must undergo purification before she is restored to her daily affairs in household and places of worship. However, this practice of labelling a menstruating woman as impure is devastating and brings down the self-esteem of a woman.
The Analytical study of menstruation in India
As per the report of India National Family Health Survey, in 2014, over 40% of women of the age group 15 to 24 are deprived of any access to sanitary products as a result of which the health of a woman will be at stake.
In India, more than 77% menstruating women use a cloth which is often reused by them moreover nearly 88% of menstruating women use other sources such as dried leaves and newspapers which makes it evident that awareness needs to be enculturated.
In 2014, NGO Dasra titled Spot On’a report said that as a result of lack of inadequate menstrual hygiene management facilities, annually 23 million girls drop out of their schools.
In the same year 2014, UNICEF provided a report according to which there existed lack of awareness amongst the women of different states, such as in West Bengal 51%, in Rajasthan 56 %, in Uttar Pradesh 66% and in Tamil Nadu 79% women were unaware of the practices related to menstrual hygiene
The Ministry of Education’s 2015 report discovered that in the rural areas, 63% of the schools did not preach or had any discussion regarding menstrual hygiene.
According to the survey conducted by the ministry of health about 60,000 of women in India die every year due to cervical cancer which is a result of improper menstrual hygiene.
According to Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man on whom the movie ‘Padman’ was made, he said that the superstitious beliefs of the women in rural areas are the root cause of menstrual taboo.
Measures were taken by the Government
In India, there have been steady developments in case of improving the menstrual hygiene of women at large. Back in time when the Government banned an advertisement featuring awareness and promotion regarding sanitary napkins in the year 1990 has now been a forgotten past as there have been tremendously beneficial steps has been incorporated by the Government such as:-
Launching of the Freeday Pad Scheme by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Under this scheme, the girls at rural areas were empowered as the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) provided them six sanitary napkins at a price of Rs.6, and this scheme was widespread across 20 states.
The SABLA scheme launched by the Union Government renders assistance for the betterment of menstrual hygiene of the girls across the nation.
The Rashtriya Kishor Swashthya Karyakram scheme launched by the Union Government in 2015 led to strengthening the menstrual hygiene of nearly 243 million adolescents girls in India.
Even under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, menstrual hygiene is of paramount significance. It has encouraged the establishment of local manufacturing units of sanitary napkins under the Swachh Bharat Mission (rural).
National Rural Health Mission, 2010 is also a landmark step taken by the Government for improvement of the conditions of the women regarding menstruation.
The judgement was given by the Supreme Court in the case of Indian Young Lawyers Association v. State of Kerala and Ors. have brought a positive reform in the discrimination faced by women.
In this case, the six members of the Indian Young Lawyers Association filed a petition to the Supreme Court for lifting up the ban on entry of women in the temple. They also challenged the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship Rules Act,1965 which was an aid to the discriminatory practice of the temple on the grounds that it violated the fundamental rights guaranteed to them under the Indian Constitution, i.e. right to equality, right to life and personal liberty as well as the freedom to propagate and follow a religion.
As per the religious beliefs of the celibacy and naisthika brahmacharya nature of the deity, Lord Ayyappan would be endangered due to the entry of the women of the menstruating age. Moreover, the women cannot complete the vratham ( a mandatory purification ritual which lasts for 40 days) as women in these 40 days would be subjected to the menstruation cycle. Hence, the women of age group 10-50 being restricted from entering the premises of Sabarimala temple.
Many people were in support of this ban such as the women with the ready to wait for campaigns in 2016
However, the Apex Court held that every woman has a right to Worthing by virtue of Article 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution there the practice of restricting the women to enter into the Sabarimala temple was held as unconstitutional and even discriminatory.
According to the then CJI, Dipak Mishra in this it held the exclusion of women from entering the Sabarimala temple does not come in the ambit of religious practice. Moreover, it is in contraction with the inclusion of women as an essential character of Hinduism.
According to the justice D.Y Chandrachud, this exclusionary practice is a kind of untouchability which is prohibited by the constitution
This case had genuinely led to the establishment of secularism and pluralism for the Indian Polity and which in turn has uplifted the agony of women to a greater extent.
Menstruation is no taboo; it forms a natural part of the cycle of reproduction as by virtue of menstruation women become capable of procreating.
The lack of stigma or courage, the deprivation of adequate facilities, the inequality, the incapabilities and lack of knowledge and awareness has altogether resulted in the plight of women as far as menstrual hygiene is concerned.
Reform and self-awareness are needed to the hour to be instrumental for enhancing the dignity of the women.
 United Nations Development Project, Human Development Report, Gender Inequality Index (2017), http://hdr.undp.org/en/composite/GII. )  Stefanie Kaiser. Menstrual Hygiene Management.2008.http://www.sswm.info/content/menstrual-hygiene-management  SOS Childrens’ Village. Social taboos damage the health of girls and women. Aug 12, 2014. http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/news/blog/social-taboos-damage-the-health-of-girls-and-women )  Kannadasan, A. 2018. “Meet Muruganantham, The Real Pad Man”, The Hindu, February 05. [https://www.thehindu.com/society/the-real-pad-man-muruganantham-before-the-release-of-pad-man/article22658314.ece].  Indian Young Lawyers Association v. State of Kerala and Ors. 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1690.  INDIA CONST. art. 14.  INDIA CONST. art. 21  INDIA CONST. art. 25  #readytowait“ These Kerala Women Devotees Campaign against Women Entering Sabarimala Shrine ”The Indian Express (29 August 2016), https://indianexpress.com/article/trending/trending-in-india/women-devotees-in-kerala-say-readytowait-to-enter-sabarimala-shrine-3002027  INDIA CONST. art. 19.  Wateraid.org. Module one: Menstrual Hygiene Basics. 2012. [Last accessed on 2014 Aug 09].http://www.wateraid.org/~/media/Files/Global/MHM%20files/Module1_HR.pdf .)