‘Shame & secrecy’

Menstruation activists fight to end a stigmatizing — and sometimes life-threatening — taboo

A poster used to educate girls about menstruation and female reproductive system is seen on February 21, 2015 at the Madibane High School in Soweto, a district of Johannesburg. (STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

In a movement that is being called “menstrual activism,” women the world over are increasingly fighting to end the taboo that surrounds women’s periods.

“We need to talk about this,” explains Yvan Savy of Plan International, a company which launched a competition this year for the best menstruation-themed emoji. “We want to open a debate.”

On social media and in public life, activists have increasingly been questioning the lengths that women are made to go to hide the evidence of their monthly cycle. Two years ago, Instagram poet Rupi Kaur railed against Instagram’s hypocrisy for allowing pictures of underage girls in underwear but banning a picture that appeared to show her with small patches of menstrual blood on her sweatpants. Musician Kiran Gandhi also highlighted stigma around menstruation after running the London marathon without a tampon. Afterward, Ghandi noted that wearing a tampon would have bothered her while she was running, and that she decided to prioritize her own comfort in an act that also served as a form of protest.

More recently, art exhibits in London and in Sweden have also sparked outrage from those who do not think menstruation belongs in the public sphere. And just a few months ago in the U.S., a woman was fired from her job after going through a heavy period leak caused by pre-menopause.

In other countries, the taboo around menstruation can lead to sinister consequences. After a 15-year-old Nepalese girl died of possible suffocation in a cramped menstruation hut in 2016, Nepal was forced to strengthen their ban against the ancient practice with a new law. In countries such as Ethiopia and Uganda, many girls are also made to stay home from school during their periods. In India, an estimated one in five schoolgirls eventually drop out of school due to problems caused by menstruation and lack of bathrooms. And thanks to cultural taboos that prevent people from talking about menstruation, one in three schoolgirls across South Asia are unaware of what a period was before they had one for the first time, according to a study.

“Until we dispel the myths associated with menstruation and bring much needed visibility to this biological process, its social meanings as dirty, embarrassing problem to be solved, will persist,” explained University of Massachusetts Professor Christina Bobel, the president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. “We have to attack the shame and secrecy, we have to make menstruation visible. Until we do, products — no matter how hi-tech or widely available — will not change the way to encounter our bodies as the rich and wonderful resources they are.”

Read the full story at Yahoo News.

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