While Scotland gives nod to Period Free Product Bill, India murmurs behind the veil

by Aishwarya Samanta

Following three years of heated debate, the Members of the Scottish Parliament have unanimously passed the Period Free Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill on Tuesday, registering a landmark making Scotland the first-ever nation to do so. The scheme which is expected to be operational by the year 2022 is estimated at around 24 million pounds per year ($44 million) and aims to reduce the nation’s ‘period poverty’. Needless to say, Scottish women, sure were born with the best of fortune any average woman could ever wish for, as a matter of fact.

Closer home, we are still at the juvenile stage where half the population shy away from the very word ‘Menstruation’. In India and like-minded nations, menstruation for centuries, has been regarded as ‘filthy’ and inappropriate for an open discussion. The worst part? The patriarchal society considers ‘periods’ as a heinous taboo.  The only time the elderly feels authoritarian about discussing periods is when a menstruating girl needs to stay away from attending religious congregations and places of worship. Period cramps and health hazards aren’t the only accompanying siblings, we’ve got the terrifying glares of the opposite sex on top of these.  

In certain instances, girls had no idea about the do’s and don’ts of menstruation before they got to experience them: courtesy, superstition and patriarchal ignorance. Although we fail to see how ‘sexual health’ and ‘menstruation’ have emerged as more of a systematic problem, the least we could do is look upon them NOW. Lack of awareness regarding menstrual hygiene has always been in the backdrop, no matter if it’s a rural or urban setup. This flow continues generation after generation. Making the matter worse, many grown up girls in villages feel this transition to be out of their hands, considering the phase to be the end of their lives.

Going back to the year 2007 when India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development proposed to include ‘sex education’ in school level curriculum, it didn’t come much of a surprise when many condemned the fact stating that imparting ‘sex education’ to school students is totally against the mighty ‘Indian values’. Be it as may, values rank higher than morals in India. Over the years, even though sexual health education found its way to curriculum, it didn’t bore results as was expected. Teachers, both in rural and urban schools found it disturbing to discuss topics like ‘periods’, ‘menstrual hygiene’ ‘sex’ and ‘STDs’ to their students. Thus, debarring the boys with no information about the concerned subjects, resulting in a problematic confraternity where half the population was unaware of the problem with what the other half was facing.  

The generation of today is the future of tomorrow. How can we be expectant of a healthy and prosperous society when misinformed population feels uncomfortable and uniformed about what changes go with their own bodies? We want empowered women who do not feel shame and embarrassed about monthly biological issues. The need of the hour is to create an environment where we can discuss topics like menstruation, sex and STDs beyond the four walls of the home.

There is definitely no future if women are shammed for something natural and men take the bandwagon ahead alone. When both the halves work hand in hand, the nation will prosper as one.

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