I looked at him frustrated & said it again –“no, am not exactly in a mood to go & visit the temple…it’s getting dark & I’ve to get back home..” “Are you sure there is no other reason why you’re not coming? Some special time of the month…” lopsided grin & raised eyebrows followed. “Nope, am not on my periods yet. Its just that I don’t want to go now okay?” The look of stunned bewilderment & embarrassment on his face was not the only reason why I had said it-“periods” aloud. It always puzzled me as to why do we never say it when we are having our menstrual cycles, instead of making up stomach aches & what-nots? Why do we hesitate to visit a gynaecologist when we have irregular periods or issues with white discharge? Let alone a doctor, we even refuse to discuss this with our Moms or friends!
Talking about women’s intimate health issue, it is one of those taboos in our so-called culture, much like the issue of sex. Everyone does it, faces it but refuses to openly discuss it. Now while, sex education is something that should be done after a proper age, I believe talking about intimate health issues should be started as early as possible. I remember how I was scared when I first had my cycle. Thankfully it wasn’t in school. I never wanted my little sister to face that trauma, so when she was of age, I talked to her, telling her how to handle the situation. And it really helped. She wasn’t scared at least not as much as I was! Parents often make the mistake of deciding that their little girl is too young to know about all this. They don’t realize that the sooner they know, the better prepared they will be.
We’ll come to kids later, lets talk about the ‘adults’. How many times when you have such a problem, you go up to your Mom & talk about it, forget about approaching any male family member. And how many times have you been turned down & told it’s a trivial issue that will somehow get resolved by itself? Many even refuse to go for a check-up if there’s a male doctor there! Does our tradition ask of us to ignore our health for the sake of protecting the woman’s ‘honour’?
Hushed whispers are not the solution. You need to speak up & get help if you are facing problems. Women tend to ignore their sexual health issues & their reproductive system mostly because they don’t know who to approach for help. While the urban woman may somehow manage, it’s the women in orthodox villages that face the brunt of this societal restriction. Proper hygiene, medication & education are the key points here. Every woman should be comfortable with knowing their body & not be ashamed of discussing the problems they sometimes face. It’s time to stop with all the whispers & openly talk about it…to your husbands & your kids too. Let your girls know you’re there to help & let your sons know that women’s intimate health issues are not something they can joke about. Building respect will increase communication & make sure no woman feels ashamed again.