Periods Still A Taboo? Time To Change That.

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You all must have experienced a shopkeeper giving you a bag as thick as a bulletproof sheet to hide your pads in it, while drugs are being sold in transparent packages in all their glory. Why? because men buy them. You too must have spent a day in your room to hide from your family because you are having cramps, and nobody can know. Right now most of you must be saying “Astaghfirullah ye kia likh dia!”. Well, it’s not only you. In Pakistan, periods are still considered taboo.

In our society, the discussion around the female body is always considered ‘waahiyat’ and ‘fahaash’.

“Shhhhh! We are not supposed to say it loud”, a teenage girl usually tells her friend. And because of this taboo, perhaps so many girls are conditioned to feel less or ashamed for having periods. The taboo around periods hinders the spread of proper education among young girls. When mothers scold them for complaining about their cramps, they will automatically think that are experiencing something they shouldn’t.

Let’s explore 8 reasons why you (if you’re a girl) or a woman shouldn’t feel ashamed about their periods and what to do about it.

Learn all about menstruation and its problems.

Reasons to not feel ashamed of your periods

1. Periods are natural, and you’re not weird to have them

About half of the seven billion people who exist in the world have experienced or will experience menstruation at some point in their lives. Throughout history, women have experienced it. You’re not alone, you aren’t weird to have them. It’s a normal biological process that’s essential in the bigger picture for the continuation of humankind.

2. It’s okay to not know how your body works

Many women don’t know or fully understand how their reproductive system function. Since from an early age, girls aren’t conditioned that talking about periods is taboo, the same girls when become women don’t know what happens in their bodies. It’s okay if you don’t know how your body functions. But at least acknowledge it.

3. Men should know about periods too

Most men in our society are completely unaware when it comes to menstruation. Usually, men feel embarrassed to talk about periods due to social conditioning. “Huh”, “ummmm”, they would respond.

This creates a self-perpetuating cycle in which women feel ashamed for having periods, they don’t talk about it. Men feel reluctant as well. Both genders don’t educate themselves, and discussions never happen. This leads to both genders frowning whenever periods are mentioned.

4. It’s a disguised blessing

Periods are a good indicator of your health. Since stress, diet, diabetes and many other things affect periods, so if you are having irregular periods it might be a sign of your body not functioning properly. In such situations, you should always consult a gynecologist.

5. They can indicate good news

Periods are one of the first indicators of your pregnancy. If you didn’t get your periods, this month and you are sexually active, You might be pregnant. Similarly, if you are avoiding conceiving, and are getting your periods regularly, Congratulations! You are not pregnant. 

All the reasons you might miss your periods.

6. Your periods don’t invalidate you

“It must be her time of the month “, sometimes a woman gets to hear. This blaming and shaming of women’s behavior on menstruation only undermines them and makes them feel lesser for having periods.

If you are menstruating or not, and get the blame for your behavior on your periods, know these remarks by others meaningless. Such remarks or having periods don’t define your self-worth.

7. You shouldn’t be ashamed of your body

Ignore if other people have a negative attitude toward menstruation implying that it’s yucky, impure, and dirty. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re unfit for certain activities and environments. If you maintain good menstruation hygiene, you’re good for anything, anywhere.

There’s nothing innately wrong with being female. You’re beautiful the way you are. Be proud of being a woman.

8. So many women don’t have access to good menstrual hygiene

Period shaming has created a culture in which menstruation is seen as an unmentionable and non-legitimate health concern.

According to Plan, “only 12% of girls and women have access to sanitary products around the world.” So many women use dirty rags and other unsanitary materials when menstruating, which can cause infections and other complications.

In Pakistan, according to UNICEF report has warned that sometimes information about menstruation has been intentionally withheld from reaching as an act of “means of protecting their chastity”. This leads to a negative impact on women’s physical and emotional health.

According to a 2017 UNICEF survey, 50% of young Pakistani women had no knowledge of menstruation before their periods started. About 28% of women reported that they had missed school or work because of stomach pain or worry over staining their clothes.

Educating yourself about your menstruation and maintaining good menstruation hygiene is one way to fight this shame. Change is important, with at least one woman at a time.

Actions to take (solution)

Own your body and its all processes

Accept your body, periods, and feel shame about them. Your periods aren’t a source of shame, it’s only the people’s opinions.

Help yourself and others understand periods better

Educate yourself and others about menstruation. Next time someone mentions ‘periods’ or you want to talk about it, and you feel reluctant, go through and talk about it. Approach it as a learner and educator.

Treat menstruation like its everyone’s problem

It’s not just about you, it’s bigger than you. You are part of the macrocosm. Our society and its well-being depends on your well-being.

When Arunachalam Muruganantham saw his wife using dirty clothes to manage menstruation, he diagnosed it as a problem all women faced and did something about it. He saw it as a problem not just for his wife but the whole society’s well-being. That man went out to invented affordable sanitary pads which are helping women across India. He did something so out of the box that a movie was made about it. And why you haven’t heard about the movie? Because Pakistan banned it, and you still think that “no they are not taboo but shouldn’t be talked about”.

Realize your well-being is ultimately linked to our society’s well-being, so educate yourself and maintain good menstruation hygiene. Periods aren’t just a women’s issue, it’s the concern of an entire community since it’s a matter of public health ultimately. No girl fakes her period, it’s natural. Period!

Next time someone tells you “it’s behuda” to talk about the period. Ask them to research better or spill the facts you already have learned. 

A little warmth for all those aunties getting annoyed by me, I by no means am endorsing the publicizing of periods. I’m not forcing girls to display their pads in the showcase but I am encouraging them to learn more about menstruation, its science, its hygiene, and its importance. So let’s all join hands and break this taboo around periods in Pakistan.

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Hiba Batool
She is a nutrition graduate from Kinnaird College, Lahore. She is a nutritionist by profession. Her interests lie in medical research and writing. She masters in all topics related to nutrition and health.

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