Men and Menstruation- Need of the Hour! Guest Column by Dr. Neelam Singh
Gender inequality is deep-rooted in Indian society. These inequalities affect one’s identity in multiple ways through various forms like gender, age, religion, caste and so on. They lead to gender stereotyping and power imbalances, which further leads to following patriarchal societal norms. One such issue where women are discouraged from raising their voice is menstruation, which is still a taboo and not much dialogue happens within conservative families regarding the same. Menstrual Hygiene Management, which is one of the basic reproductive rights of females, has many components to address – access to infrastructural facilities (toilets, water supply and soaps), menstrual absorbent materials and means to dispose used sanitary materials. MHM requires an individual to have adequate menstrual hygiene facilities that include a clean private space for women to change their clothes, soap and water to clean their private parts, mirrors to check themselves and dustbins to dispose their menstrual/sanitary waste. The lack of these aggravate their difficulties and widens the disparity. To facilitate these basic requirements there is a need to involve men and create a conducive environment in which these needs are understood and fulfilled. The involvement of men will improve investing and educating people regarding water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, not only as family members but in broader roles such as teachers, frontline workers, engineers, doctors, policymakers, journalists, stakeholders, village leaders, municipal corporators and so on. This will encourage better policy prescription, enhance budgeting, MHM friendly public toilet construction and enhanced discussion at family, community and public discourses which will open the doors for other such issues. Hence men should be the integral part of the issue related to menstruation and other reproductive health and rights of women. Men are fundamental to change attitudes and educating them helps to dispel the myths, stigmas and negative perception about menstruation and bringing them into conversation about menstruation helps to create a supportive and conducive environment for females. It can be said that the dominant discourse in the society is generally the one that concerns men, and as MHM is not their concern, it is not talked out loud or considered important by them. Hence, we need a narrative which tells how MHM is crucial for men as well. Men have to be sensitised about how their actions (or inaction) may influence a woman’s wellbeing (social, economic, psychological), which they would otherwise never realise.