MENSTRUATE RED WITH DIGNITY

-NIHARIKA RAJPUROHIT

The title is cut and dried for the objective of this article. Menstruation is a natural vaginal bleeding that occurs as a part of women’s monthly cycle. A body of a monthly bleeding woman is medically considered healthy. The process of menstruation starts right from puberty (11/14 years) and continue till age 51 (menopause stage), lasting from 2-5 days which comes not with just bleeding but several other cramping and soring issues. The effect of menstruation starts before a couple of a weeks or week in guise of Premenstrual Syndrome commonly called as PMS where a woman suffers from dynamic mood swings, headache, fatigue, nausea and other symptoms. This natural process of bleeding can take its worst form in the name of Menorrhagia resulting in excessive prolonged bleeding which is also a very common gynaecologic complaint in contemporary (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menorrhagia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352829). In this condition the woman bleed abnormally and more than the normal number of days resulting in excessive loss of blood which further leads to hormonal imbalances thereby also affecting the mental health of the woman, dysfunctioning of ovaries, fibroids, polyps, cancer and other several life chronic problems (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menorrhagia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352829).

Now the title doesn’t explain the biology of menstruation here. It concerns with how normal and natural this process is and if it not properly treated it can take a woman’s life due to exsanguination. The status quo of Indian women is very poor in regard to this natural process and keeping it hygienic. Right from the awareness to hygiene to disposal (its adversity to environment degradation from improper disposal of sanitary pads is not taken here for the aim of this article is different), this concept is a total wreck among the females and their association. A bleeding woman during her menstruation period not only suffers from biological disturbances but also societal and medicinal. It is still considered a taboo in India. Yes, National Family Health Survey Report 2017 says that only 58% of women in India use Sanitary Pads during their monthly cycle (https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/mapped-menstrual-hygiene-across-the-states-in-india/article24016449.ece). What the rest use is a piece of cloth, cotton gauge, and homemade pads; also ironically wash it and reuse and hence adding to unhealthy practices. Since the process of menstruation is a taboo and therefore the same is the case with its hygiene. In India, 50% of population is not aware of its dangers and hygiene requisites of this “hush affair”. Sadly, in some parts of India it is considered so improper that girls have to absolve from education (https://swachhindia.ndtv.com/menstrual-hygiene-day-facts-26-percent-use-sanitary-pads-periods-34309/).

 However, government of India did come with a subsidised disposal of sanitary napkins perhaps, the reports of 2018 shows a scant of such pads due to lack of know-how of its production and higher cost for procurement of raw materials (https://www.livemint.com/Politics/zbk4JLAnsoHjmbvp1rgeNJ/Use-of-sanitary-pads-sparse-despite-govt-schemes-studies.html). To what extent it is actually implemented is other concern which has no available statistics and research to rely upon. Regardless of government efforts, this issue is yet to resolve and address in toto.

Article 21 of Constitution of India gives citizen a Right to Life and Personal Liberty. It is no alien a concept that this has several tentacles which together and separately ensures a dignified life to a human existence. It is the prerogative of government to look after its citizen well-being, their rights and health especially, considering Article 21. Leading a human life with enough human dignity is a fundamental right of Indians. Sadly, the tentacles of Article 21 are yet to reach the natural process of Menstruation. Nothing in Article 21 or judicial precedent recognise healthy menstruation under the umbrella of human dignity. Loss of life, loss to health and environment is of course recognised; more likely because it was put under judicial lenses. Is it necessary to every time wait for a petition to recognise citizen’s right and their issues as fundamental? This article talks of how Menstruation shall be included under the facets of Article 21 because not including it is anyway bearing no fruits to health and hygiene of women section and their associations. This demand is also not something new rather can be understood within the ambit of Right to health, another facet under Article 21.

To ensure human dignity it has to be the state to step in and provide all minimum requirements to achieve the minimum standard of health and civilised living. Owning sufficient sanitary pads and possessing needful awareness towards hygiene is the bare minimum the government can do to meet the purpose of Article 21. Additionally, addressing the other issues related to menstruation which are before-mentioned in this article can also be rightly recognised under Right to medical care as a subset of Article 21. Fundamental rights are the basic structure of constitution and therefore cannot be amended or removed to cherish the existence of Constitution. In absence of its basic structure the Constitution will fall. Making healthy and safe menstruation a fundamental right would bring perpetuity to its enforcement thereby also putting a statutory obligation on subsequent governments to abide by this amendment.  This issue is required to be taken seriously looking at the worse results it can cause. The constitution empowers government to bring out legislation for the betterment of women and children under Article 15(3) of Constitution of India so any such amendment (if made) would be constitutionally welcomed.

CONCLUSION:

Government being the ultimate guardian of its citizens and a knight in shining armour of their fundamental right shall come forward to ensure women a Right to Menstruate with Dignity, not with taboo and unawareness. The Ministry of Health should pool out its resources and attention to ensure women a safe period and safe guard their life from related fatalities. To meet the ends of this objective the government should continue supply of sanitary pads at subsidised rate but should also keep a track of the beneficiaries through the process of survey and research. Non- governmental organisations can be directed to look after the recording of data. It is no new that often the benefits do not reach the beneficiaries and hence a proper channel has to be created. The government should direct all government hospitals to appoint counsellors and psychologist to aid the women going through mental ailment from hormonal imbalances. Non-Governmental Organisation should be made responsible, zone wise to spread the awareness among women population by conducting camps. Moreover, common gender sensitization programmes should be a part of school curriculum to sensitize teenager and spread the awareness for healthy period. Environment should not be left alone for it is the highest guardian of mankind and therefore proper disposal mechanisms should be opted for disposal of sanitary pads.