India has progressed leaps and bounds in it’s long existence as a nation yet we see a staunchly contrarian approach to menstruation, it is observed as an unnatural taboo. Economic and social atmosphere has perpetrated obstructive and unfavourable order for women in terms of their right to proper sanitation. A greater part of women hailing from the marginalized sections of society, access to proper sanitation and healthcare is still an unaffordable luxury.
This aspect of social rights was overlooked while the world was running just fine as the world came to standstill the state of this necessity was in complete shambles. Covid 19 pandemic has been a catastrophe that has ruined the condition of a multitude of sectors and we are yet to comprehend the entirety of its effects.
The stats of a few years before the pandemic paint an abysmal picture in terms of health for about 50% of the population. According to a family health survey of 2015-16, only 36% (121 million out of 355 million) women used sanitary napkins, clearly marking this basic right as a privilege.The substitute to sanitary pad was threadbared clothes, leaves, hay and even ash, which led to morbid infections. A 2014 report by NGO Dasra reported that about 23 million girls drop out of school annually once their periods start. The ones who don’t drop out, miss on an average of 5 days per month of their schooling. Numbers don’t lie and these numbers speak of a horror of the most grievous kind.
During the nationwide lockdown, the situation escalated to a lethal level of negligence. The supply chain of sanitary pads was disrupted greatly. Initially, even privileged women were incapable of purchasing pads, since pads were added to “essential commodities” on 29 March, 2020, 5 days into the lockdown. The announcement of lockdown caused a sudden halt in the production of pads as well, leading to shortage of supply. Schools, a critical part of the supply chain were shut down, which blocked access for innumerable school girls. With schools being shut, the only source for girls to get sanitary pads was community workers, which could bear only a minuscule proportion of women in need.
The harshest of the consequences were faced by the marginalized women migrants, who migrated from urban areas. They had to use rags which led to health hazards and embarrassment, since they were constantly in public places. Mr. Rajesh Shah, president of Feminine and Infant Hygiene Association of India, said that production was still partially resumed because there was an acute shortage of workers who had fled the cities for their villages. Only 60% of factories being functional, there was a massive shortage of sanitary products.
Proper sanitation and health care access must be ensured as a basic right for women. Though the demand for sanitary pads has increased by 58% in less than 5 years, we still have a chunk of population yet to receive their due.
Written by -Devesh Anand Srivastava
Edited by – Ujjwal Makin