Are menstrual products publicly accessible in India?

Author :- Revathi V Gopal Dec. 17, 2020, 8:31 a.m.
Are menstrual products publicly accessible in India?

Of the around 355 million menstruating women in India, only 12% of them (women and young girls) have access to menstrual or period products. Through this article on Public Access to Menstrual products in India, we will delve into the problems of accessibility of menstrual products in both rural and urban areas. We will also highlight a few measures to overcome  #periodpoverty.

As per the studies conducted by various sources, only 70% of Indian families can afford sanitary products. Around 71% of young girls in India lack awareness of menstruation before getting their first period. 

Some of the chief issues faced by Indian women and girls are:

  1. Lack of sanitation, 
  2. Restrictions based on stigmas and taboos,
  3. Lack of knowledge on menstrual products and hygiene,
  4. Low accessibility to these products due to unavailability and high prices.

Problems with Public Access of menstrual products

Source: Giphy

Most Indian women and girls face shock, fear, shame, and anxiety when they are on their period. The number of dropouts of young girls after getting their periods is high in India. Problems with accessibility and affordability of period products are a few reasons.

Taboos and stigmas associated with menstruation and menstrual products

There are a plethora of taboos and myths associated with menstrual products and menstruation. In some parts of India, people believe that if a dog smells an unmarried woman wearing a sanitary pad, she would never get married. Concerning menstruation, there could be a neverending list beginning from menstruation as impure to witch shaming menstruating women. In rural areas, the majority of women depend upon dirty rags, strips of old clothes, and even sawdust filled in socks. They are unhygienic and can cause infections. 

Period products and their ever hiking prices

Menstrual products are the essential needs of every woman. In India, as per the current tax regulations, tampons and pads have a 10% tax. The government has listed sanitary products in the non-essential category. Though there have been discussions on shifting them to essentials or medical groups, no proper initiatives have been taken. 

Reusable sanitary products, including cloth pads (average cost Rs 85 to 400) and menstrual cups (Rs 400 to Rs 3000) usage varies between high (for cloth pads) and low (for menstrual cups). Compostable menstrual pads and tampons cost Rs 96 per cycle, and their use is low in India. Most women and girls rely on non-compostable sanitary pads, and they cost from Rs 45 to Rs 108 per menstrual cycle. Most women in India depend upon them, and their usage is high in urban regions. However, their accessibility is pretty low in rural areas. These price ranges are unaffordable for most Indian families.

Lack of awareness of menstrual products

Accessibility depends mostly on awareness. Most women in India are unaware of the need to take care of their menstrual health. Not many know about reproductive tract infections that can occur due to lack of menstrual hygiene. However, there are now several programs and organizations that work on creating awareness of menstrual products in India. 

Pandemic and lack of access to period products

Many young girls in rural areas depend upon the menstrual products distributed from their schools. After the initiation of the lockdown measures and the closure of schools, many young girls are unable to access menstrual products in India. 

Wrap it until it is invisible!

Purchasing sanitary pads can be quite hard if you are someone belonging to a rural region or a small town. Quirky stares and uncomfortable talks make it difficult for many women to purchase menstrual products. For decades, retailers wrap sanitary pads in newspapers as if it is some sort of a forbidden product not to be shown to the normal world.

Flashing a packet of sanitary pads without a paper wrap in your hand is unthinkable for many women and young girls. Jokes associated with menstrual products are yet another issue. These are some of the concerns women face while purchasing sanitary products.

How can we expand public access to menstrual products?

Source: Pexels
  • By creating awareness among young girls
  • The government can classify menstrual products as essential or medical items. It would reduce their cost.
  • By educating both young men and women about menstrual hygiene and menstruation
  • By making it available in schools, colleges, and public toilets with proper disposal systems.
  • By encouraging women to use ecofriendly products like menstrual cups and reusable sanitary pads/ tampons

Menstrual Hygiene Program by UNICEF states that around 71% of Indian girls remain unaware of menstruation till they reach menarche. Due to a lack of awareness and accessibility of menstrual products, many women and young girls in India are undergoing a lot of troubles. It is high time to bring about a change in the menstrual issues faced by women.

 Let's create accessibility as well as awareness and put a period on the stigmas and issues related to menstruation!

Cover photo by freepik