Sunday, May 24, 2009

Indian Women and Menstruation

In general, poor Indian women do not wipe at all when they pee unless they are on their periods.  Then, they wear underwear or pin cloth around themselves and put a folded up reusable towel or rag to catch their blood.  Women are starting to purchase disposable sanitary pads, but as these are expensive it is still more common for them to use towels and rags.  They clean the towels and rags themselves and hang them to dry.  As you can imagine, wearing these towels restricts women’s movement quite a bit just because it is so cumbersome.  There are all sorts of taboos associated with menstruating women- some are not allowed to cook, visit temples, touch their husbands, etc.  But the most difficult part involves toileting.  There are not enough public toilets in India (hence why people pee in the streets), and it is much more difficult to discreetly urinate when one must first lift the sari up high and remove panties and menstruation rags.  Because periods are messy, women then have the need to wipe with water each time they urinate, and this is also difficult to do in public.  For this reason, girls sometimes drop out of schools when they start menstruating and women’s activities are limited when they are on their periods.  The toilet facilities in most schools are not adequate to give girls the space to clean themselves while they are on their period, and the taboos associated with menstruation can cause a young girl a lot of embarrassment.  It’s strictly taboo to leave any evidence of menstruation such as soiled sanitary pads or bits of blood in the toilet, yet the public facilities usually do not have running water or trash bins. 

Wealthier Indian Women

For middle class women, things are a lot easier.  They have a larger range of clothing to choose from and they use disposable sanitary pads.  Moreover, they can easily clean themselves with water when they are on their periods then wash their hands with soap afterwards.  

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1 comment:

  1. India has more public temples than public toilets.