Red colour of blood incites the feeling of fear and wooziness. It flows out of our body parts if any of it gets hurt or injured. What will be the reaction (the silent reaction, as loudness of a girl is not audible to the giant-size ears of our society) of an eleven year old girl child who finds the stream of blood coming from her private parts without being hurt or injured? The first experience of menarche is enough to shake the young minds of adolescent girls. In this connection, they need special support, guidance and open discussion with their elders who intentionally prefer to remain silent on the grave issue of menstruation which is connected to the girls’ physical and mental health and development.
Due to our gendered socialization practices, girls grow up in different environment as opposed to their male counterparts. They are accustomed to see, behave and react to the events and environment in their daily life differently in correspondence to the values they have received from the gendered socialization practices.
It can also be called as the outcome of gendered packaging of girls and boys by different agencies and organizations including family, schools, peer groups, media, etc.
Depression, stress, anxiety, dependency, inferiority complex, inexpressiveness, suppression of emotions, frustration, decreased energy, low self-esteem, low self-confidence and detachment from social life are social and psychological problems which are the repercussions of the taboos attached to the natural process of menstruation and deliberate restrictions imposed on menstruating girls and women. They start considering it as a symbol of impurity, bodily imperfection and abnormality because of the list of DON’TS affiliated to it.
During menstruation, girls and women are forced to do the following don’ts:
• Don’t enter into the religious building;
• Don’t perform religious duties;
• Don’t play outside but confine yourself into the four walls of your room;
• Don’t enter into the kitchen;
• Don’t start any new task;
• Don’t go to school; and
• Don’t live normal life.
These are the direct consequences of the lack of necessary guidance and counselling, public awareness and open discourse. In addition, this biological phenomenon is directly linked with the cultural norms of our patriarchal society which persistently remind the girls of their impurity.
This thought will direly affect normal functioning and interpersonal relationships in girls’ life. In spite of living in 21st century, there is less number of girls who remain aware about menstruation before its personal encounter. Most of the adolescent girls (unprepared girls) come to know it at the time of its first experience in reality. At that crucial time, instead of talking about that issue openly, family members start dictating points from not-to-do-list which are to be followed during the period of menstruation without giving valid reasons but by associating it with shame.
These practices germinate the idea of impurity associated to menstruation which, further, leads to the unceasing construction of stories related to self and bodily images which influence female sexuality, psychological well-being and self-worth of young girls in the society. The psychological deterioration of the minds of adolescent girls caused by menstruation taboos imposed by our patriarchal society needs immediate and deliberate steps to be taken by every individual of our society.
For removal of this tightly-attached taboo of menstruation, every family and school has to provide safe, congenial and conducive environment where members remain approachable and accessible for constructive dialogue on any issue regarding that matter.
At the end, it is apt to say that no one can grow while being caged behind the heavy bars of societal norms. Wings need open space and a little push to fly high. So, being a responsible member of society, we should provide that space and push to each and every girl child. Our triumph relies on safe, secure and sound growth of girls and boys in making them to be the contributive citizens of our society.
(The writer is working as Assistant Professor in Department of Teacher Education, Manipur University. She is also pursuing her research work from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. She can be reached at [email protected])
Source: The Sangai Express