India Moves Towards Menstrual Hygiene: Subsidized Sanitary Napkins for Rural Adolescent Girls—Issues and Challenges
Abstract: The onset of menstruation is one of the most important physiological changes occurring among girls during the adolescent years. Menstruation heralds the onset of physiological maturity in girls. It becomes the part and parcel of their lives until menopause. Apart from personal importance, this phenomenon also has social significance. In India, menstruation is surrounded by myths and misconceptions with a long list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for women. Hygiene-related practices of women during menstruation are of considerable importance, as it may increase vulnerability to Reproductive Tract Infections (RTI’s). Poor menstrual hygiene is one of the major reasons for the high prevalence of RTIs in the country and contributes significantly to female morbidity. Most of the adolescent girls in villages use rags and old clothes during menstruation, increasing susceptibility to RTI’s. Adolescents constitute one-fifths of India’s population and yet their sexual health needs remain largely unaddressed in the national welfare programs. Poor menstrual hygiene in developing countries has been an insufficiently acknowledged problem. In June 2010, the Government of India proposed a new scheme towards menstrual hygiene by a provision of subsidized sanitary napkins to rural adolescent girls. But there are various other issues like awareness, availability and quality of napkins, regular supply, privacy, water supply, disposal of napkins, reproductive health education and family support which needs simultaneous attention for promotion of menstrual hygiene. The current article looks at the issue of menstrual hygiene not only from the health point of view, but also considers social and human rights values attached to it.