In Telangana, a south Indian state, families celebrate when their daughters reach puberty or menarche (first menstruation). “Though locals refer to the event in many names- the ancient name is Ritusuddhi, also called Ritu Kala Samskara, which is the coming of age ceremony for girls, after menarche or first menstruation.”
Celebrations marking the first menstruation are common across south India states. This milestone in a young women’s life is “observed by her family and friends, with gifts” and her “wearing a sari for the ritual.”
Annual events such as Ambubachi Mela, an annual fertility festival held in June at Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Assam, and Raja Parba, Odisha’s 3-day festival, are associated with Earth’s menstrual celebrations and are celebrated with great fervor.
Fast forward into the modern era; our society has adopted a myopic view of such rich traditions and created an unnecessary stigma and shame around it.
I was born in the 70s and grew up in a traditional yet modern family. I saw my father and mother share domestic chores. My three sisters were brought up in an equal environment and grew into independent women.
While growing up, I knew – my sisters and my mother behaved differently on certain days and never knew why. Like most young men of my era, I was exposed to jokes around periods during college days.
I got a first-hand understanding of the challenges a woman undergoes during the period after I got married.
Marring a medical professional was handy as my wife was comfortable sharing many of the challenges women face during menstruation. I became aware of mood swings, rashes, cramps, and the uncertainty of timing and how it kind of builds tension just before the D-day and the crisis when it hit at unexpected time and place.
During the first year of marriage, Anita asked me to pick a pack of sanitary pads from the nearest medical store; those days, there were no supermarkets. I remember – the salesman at the counter sheepishly rolled the pack in a newspaper and handed over as if I was buying weed. Even today, If I am in a supermarket- in the sanitary section; the women shopping in that section become uncomfortable.
The stigma and shame associated with periods are deeply ingrained into the conscience of our society. And, women, in particular, have to live and work around it all through their lives.
Period Hub is a start-up that is working towards removing the stigma and shame around menstruation. Its co-founder Chirantana Kar, says, no one feels embarrassed when blood oozes from an injury or wound, but the same is not true when it comes to periods; there is awkwardness.
My teenage son is in 9th grade, and soon, some of his female classmates will hit puberty. It will take a while before the young women and their parents settle down to the new reality. But, I am thinking of my son. Like other young boys his age, he would know nothing about menstruation, and the worst he might get the twisted information about periods.
All this because society is not ready to talk about something that “is considered to be a natural God-given holiday to women once a month.”
Two things that society should do to support women
- Feel empowered instead of stigma & shame: The society should come together to remove the shame and stigma and make it celebrative for the young adults. When young women hit puberty, they should feel empowered to take discussions and have a voice within the family and across society.
- Make Youngmen aware: Youngmen should be sensitized about the challenges women face during periods. If boys learn about it at school and home, they will grow up appreciating and respecting women.
*It is society’s responsibility to de-stigmatize periods and makes young women feel empowered when they reach puberty. *
In ancient times, ours was an open society that acknowledged and celebrated “the Seven Essential Human Needs” that covers all aspects of human life.
It is high time we go back to our roots and find answers in them to current dilemmas.
To know more about The Period Hub’s Perspective, visit their interview with My Startup TV –