Public Comment

India’s shame

Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 10:16:00 PM

In a explosive new documentary called “Period. End of Sentence,” Iranian-American director, Zehtabchi, highlights the appalling neglect of Indian women who do not have access to sanitary products.] 

According to Nielsen, a research firm estimates that an astounding 70% of women in the country cannot afford sanitary products: 300m use unhygienic substitutes like newspapers, dry leaves and cotton rags. Some 23% of girls drop out of school upon reaching puberty, humiliated by their peers and unable to access clean, private toilets. The silent shame that women have to endure is deeply entrenched. Women having their period can be barred from entering the kitchen, handling food and forbidden from entering places of worship. 

In a landmark ruling, India’s Supreme Court allowed women between 10 and 50 (generally considered to be of menstruating age) to visit Sabarimala, a famous Hindu temple in Kerala. This ruling enraged many men mired in superstition of their mythical God, Lord Ayyappa who claims he was celibate and repulsed by the prospect of women’s fertility. It is worth repeating that Lord Ayyappa was a mythical, unreal entity whose only purpose was to perpetuate a false tradition and banish menstruating women from “defiling” the temple. 

A school dropout, Arunachalam Muruganantham from Tamil Nadu, was so horrified to discover his wife was using dirty cloths that he embarked on a quest to make sanitary towels at a fraction of the cost of the branded ones sold by multinationals. 

He created a mock-up uterus from a football bladder filled with goat’s blood, with a tube that would squirt liquid into his undergarments and after many trials he introduced his highly successful “Pad Man.” Eventually Bollywood capitalized on his success by introducing a blockbuster movie by the same name. 

Buoyed by their success in changing a few hearts and minds, a staggering 5.5 women in Kerala, one in three women in the state, took to the streets to champion their emancipation. The government responded declaring menstruation should not be used to discriminate women’s full participation in society. The message is clear - never underestimate the power of a grassroots movement of determined women. Bravo! 

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