Women At Care Centers In Chennai Do Not Have Access To Menstrual Hygiene Products. Why Are They Still Not Considered Essential Products?
The stigma around menstruation in our country has caused thousands of young girls and women to suffer both mentally and physically. This stigma is the reason so many girls are forced to skip school for five days every month and the women are deemed “unpure” and made to sit in a corner without being able to talk to anyone or move about. We live in a country where women are made to feel ashamed for a bodily function that we can’t control. But hey, what’s new?
Yes, these are seemingly age-old practices but they happen even today, in urban and rural settings. Menstrual hygiene isn’t given the priority and importance it deserves. We are facing a huge scarcity of basic menstrual hygiene products like sanitary pads and this pandemic has only amplified this problem.
Over the past few months, we have heard of remote areas where women are using unhygienic methods to help them through their periods since they don’t have access to sanitary pads. It’s the perfect case of jugaad if you think about it, but it’s unsanitary and causes more problems than it fixes and in extreme cases, these nuske have been fatal. The latest of scarcity complaints are coming from Chennai, where care centres for COVID 19 ran out of menstrual hygiene products for their patients.
A senior official from the Chennai corporation said that women have to bring sanitary napkins from home if they are transferred to quarantine centres or hospitals.#COVID19 @NirupamaViswa https://t.co/y0X6RbByhl
— The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) June 29, 2020
Suganthi, a 19-year-old girl who tested positive of coronavirus forgot that her period date clashed with the 14-day quarantine period. When she started her period she was in the isolation ward of the Chengalpattu hospital. Speaking to Indian Express she said, “I asked the hospital staff, but they said no sanitary napkin was available. Then I had to ask my mother to come all the way from our home in Perumbakkam to hand me over a few. It took her an hour to reach here.”
A 17-year-old girl faced a similar situation when she too started her menstrual cycle while she was under quarantine. She said, “I was so embarrassed. When I asked a female staff, she said napkins were not available. I was close to tears, so the staff arranged one napkin from her colleague for the time being. I knew one napkin won’t be enough. I paid Rs 100 to a staff to buy it for me from the medical shop. Here, even to buy biscuit from outside, we pay staff Rs 100.” She further added. “I was more conscious about not staining my clothes because there were men in the next room.”
Even talking about menstruation is still considered a very taboo topic. Especially, when there are men around. Let’s take a moment to think about what a frightening situation this is all because menstruation products are not considered essential. Why is that, again?
2. The prices of hygienic menstrual products leave many without ways to safely manage their periods.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 28, 2020
In another instance from Chennai, a girl was taken to the quarantine centre in Guru Nanak school. She had to ask her friend to drive down all the way just to give her a packet of sanitary napkins because the centre didn’t have any.
Here’s what is bothering me- if officials would’ve prioritised menstrual health earlier then those women would not have had to compromise like this. Coronavirus isn’t partial to any gender and there are going to be women and men quarantined. Why aren’t basic needs to women being taken care of? It’s simple, hunger is not optional and neither is thirst which is why food and water are essential products. So, what makes anyone think that menstruation is an option? It’s not, which is why menstrual products need to be considered as essential.
This is not the first time this pandemic has caused a scarcity of sanitary napkins. For instance, people living in the villages of the Kadambur Hills in the Gudiyalathur Panchayat had no access to menstrual products since the only places they were available- schools and Anganwadi centres were closed down due to the pandemic. Women suffered greatly because of this.
Also Read: Akshay Kumar Is Asking People To Donate Sanitary Napkins To Underprivileged Women. So He Really Is Padman
A great cause needs your support. Covid doesn’t stop periods, help provide sanitary pads to underprivileged women across Mumbai. Every donation counts : https://t.co/gty1PeX3CT https://t.co/CDgPkoGH82
— Akshay Kumar (@akshaykumar) May 21, 2020
Of course, there are NGOs that are supplying sanitary pads and other menstrual products to the women in need. Like this organisation called Manasa from Bhopal that raised Rs 16,000 to distribute 3,000 sanitary pads to women in slums who couldn’t afford them otherwise. Another excellent example is of the women from a village in Shahpur that distributed pads to migrant workers.
Even celebrities like Akshay Kumar and Duttee Chand are doing their part in ensuring that women don’t have to compromise when it comes to menstrual health during this pandemic.
Pandemic or not, hygiene is not something to play fast and loose with. Hundreds of women all around our country face menstrual problems and I am not talking about the cramps and backaches. From period poverty to being shamed for menstruating, women are always at a disadvantage and it’s time that we fix it.