Educate boys, menstruation not a matter of shame, says Irani

May 28 is identified as Menstrual Hygiene Day to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management

Social norms extend to what women should eat or not eat during menstruation. Representational image: iStock

On the occasion of Menstrual Hygiene Day on Thursday (May 28), Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani called for educating not only girls but also boys that menstruation is not a matter of shame.

Menstrual Hygiene Day highlights the importance of good menstrual hygiene management. It also seeks to break taboos and negative practices around menstruation like enforced social exclusion of women and girls during their periods.

“Affordable sanitary napkins have been made available through all Jan Aushadhi Kendras thereby ensuring #MenstrualHygiene for millions of Indian women. On #MHDay2020 let’s commit ourselves to educating not only girls but also boys that menstruation is not a matter of shame,” Irani said in a tweet.

National Commission for Women Chairperson Rekha Sharma said a woman’s biological cycle should never become a barrier in the way of her opportunities. “At times when our country is aspiring to be a superpower, it becomes more of a responsibility to pull out of gender stereotypes and strive to get our daughters access to good menstrual hygiene,” she said in a series of tweets.

“A woman’s biological cycle should never become a barrier in the way of her opportunities. Every woman is entitled to safe periods. Access to good menstrual hygiene is a right,” she added. Menstrual Hygiene Day was first observed on May 28, 2014.

Meanwhile, UNICEF India Representative Yasmin Ali Haque has said the culture of silence around menstruation has become even more evident in the COVID pandemic, and breaking silence, raising awareness and changing negative social norms is more important now than ever before.

Haque said on Thursday that millions of women and girls from economically disadvantaged sections of the society are finding it difficult to manage their periods safely, hygienically, and with dignity.

“The culture of silence around menstruation has become even more evident in the COVID pandemic. Millions of women and girls from economically disadvantaged sections of the society are finding it difficult to manage their periods safely, hygienically and with dignity,” she said.

Many are without work, stranded away from home with little access to menstrual hygiene products, Haque was quoted as saying in a statement by UNICEF. “Breaking the silence, raising awareness and changing negative social norms is more important now than ever before, she added.

The UNICEF-launched week-long campaign #RedDotChallenge for ensuring all girls manage their periods safely and with dignity has reached 3.2 million through social media. The campaign was launched ahead of the Menstrual Hygiene Day to recognise the importance of menstrual health and hygiene issues and bring to attention the difficulties faced by adolescent girls, further exacerbated amidst the crisis, according to the statement.

According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, only 48 per cent of rural women were using hygienic menstrual products, compared to 78 per cent in urban areas.

The UNICEF said even with higher coverage in urban areas, it does not tell the full story about deep gaps in access in slums and especially now with migrant populations on the move due to the pandemic.

(With inputs from agencies)

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