The Stained Skirt Shamed for menstruating everywhere and every time

Living in 21st century hasn’t withered away the primitive myths pertaining to menstruation. Reports suggest that about 75% of Indian women are still hesitant in buying sanitary pads and they feel more comfortable if they are packed in black plastic bags or wrapped in newspapers. In certain villages of north India, a married woman is not allowed to sit with other members of the family if she is menstruating. Even in the urban India, most women are restricted entry into the kitchen during that time because they are considered to be impure.

The taboo has not only infected India but other parts of the world. Menstruation faced a lot of controversies in the past. Most female ancestors were actually considered impure while they were having their period and were forced to stay and bleed in a private place for days until the end of their cycles. Some major religions even considered it a sin to be menstruating. It was a difficult time to be a woman. Sadly, it still is.

Menstruation and social entrepreneurship may seem like unlikely subjects for a Bollywood film, but they’re at the heart of the highly anticipated Pad Man, which released on Friday.


Slated as the world's first feature film about menstruation, the trailblazing Bollywood movie "Pad Man" opens globally Friday with an eye toward breaking taboos around a subject rarely discussed publicly in India.

It tells the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu who revolutionized feminine health care in his country after discovering in 1994 that his wife was forced to use old rags during her period.

"I saw a nasty rag cloth with bloodstains. I wouldn't even use the cloth to clean my (bi)cycle," Muruganantham told CNN. "Then, I asked her, 'Why you are using this unhygienic method?' I didn't even know the term 'sanitary pads' in those days."

A newlywed, he bought his wife a pack of sanitary pads as a gift.

"When I handed it over to my wife, I thought, 'Why I am paying so much for a simple 10 grams of cotton packed in a pad? Why not make an affordable sanitary pad for my wife, Shanthi?'"

Since then, Muruganantham has helped millions of rural Indian women by providing them with affordable sanitary products. In 2014, he was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People.

"Everything started from my wife," he said. "Now, it has gone global."

Let's uncover some of the taboos related to menstruation around the world.

In India, women are not allowed to enter the temples. In some parts, they are asked to sleep on the floor. Their entry to the kitchen is also restricted. In some parts, they are asked not to take bath during the first 3 days of the periods as it can lead to cancer.
In Kenya, many women are forced to use leaves and sticks during menstruation. Image for representation only. In some parts of Kenya, women do not buy sanitary napkins and rather stay at home and bleed in order to 'HIDE' it from the society. Whereas, in other parts of Kenya women use leaves and sticks during their periods which leads to infection
Nepal: menstruating women are forced to live in isolated sheds, without access to food or water as part of a custom called ‘chhaupadi’. Chhaupadi is a social tradition which takes place in the Western parts of Nepal for Hindu women. This event prohibits women to take part in normal family activities as they are considered impure. Women are kept out of the house and have to live in a cattle shed for 4-7 days. The women aren’t allowed to touch men and are not allowed to consume dairy products, meat and other nutritious food. They aren’t allowed to use blankets and are supposed to sleep on rugs.
During menstruation, women in Afghanistan avoid washing their vaginas because they are told it can lead to infertility. Compounding the issue is the lack of access to clean pads. A single menstrual pad costs $4 USD in Afghanistan. Sixty-two percent of Afghani schoolgirls report using strips of torn clothing, and many hold off on washing them until nightfall to keep it a secret. It is said that showering during periods can make a woman "gazag" which means infertile.
Women who use tampons in Barbados are considered to have lost their virginity, which leads to social isolation. Women didn’t really wear tampons, or at least they didn’t mention it much if they did. Women wearing tampons were seen as not virgins, and slutty. In Barbados, women can not afford sanitary napkins and hence, they use old cloth during menstruation
In Bolivia, girls are asked to carry their used sanitary pads in their bags. As, menstrual blood is so dangerous it can cause diseases like cancer if it’s mixed in with other trash.
In Cree, when a girl gets her periods for the first time, it is celebrated, the event is called The Berry Fast. This first moon time is a time of celebration and usually begins with a feast with female relatives.
In Egypt, the departmental stores do not give tampons to young girls as it is only for grown women (who had sex). It’s awefull that some random store clerk is telling you what to use during your periods.
In Japan, women cannot be sushi chefs because their sense of taste is thrown off by menstruation. A lot of restaurants do not hire female chef because of this myth. To cook good food, a person should have a good sense of tastebut because of the menstrual cycle women have an imbalance in their taste, and that’s why women can’t be sushi chefs.
In Iran, menstruation is looked down as disease. People do not talk about it. Longstanding stigmatization in Iran has caused a staggering 48% of girls to believe that menstruation is a disease, according to a UNICEF study.
In Poland, it is believed that if a girl will have sex with his partner during menstruation, it will lead to her partner's death. So during periods, you should not get involved in any sexual activity with your partner.
In Romania, women are not allowed to enter gardens as, if they'll touch a flower it will die quicker.
In Dominican Republic, women who are menstruating should not paint their nails, wash their hair or drink lemonade.
In Philippines, when a women gets her first period you need to wash your face with the first menstrual blood to have clear skin.

Auntie Flo, on the rag, girl flu, back in the saddle, jam and bread, going to Oklahoma, howlin’ at the moon – these are just some of the many English expressions used to avoid the embarrassing subject of menstruation. Period is still portrayed as a taboo, around the world. Different cultures view menstruation differently around the world. Some celebrate it and the others hide it or rather, shame it. Women have more periods now than in the past, because until the advent of contraception and bottle-feeding, women were either pregnant or breastfeeding for much of their lives. Also, poor diet and hard work meant that until the 20th century, most girls did not reach the menarche – the first period – until 17 or 18 years. The average age of menarche has dropped over the past century to 12.5 years.

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