Women have been menstruating for as long as evolution can be tracked. It is part and parcel of being born with a uterus; and menstruation may not seem like anything special to most women.
But, here are some important years, documenting special moments where the very normal phenomena of menstruation hit the limelight.
For years, women had been using makeshift pads, made of lint and cotton, until in 1888, when the first commercial period product was put on the market. Southball Pads, and Lister’s Towel for Women were released in England and America respectively. They were inspired by the cotton “pads” used by war nurses to treat injured soldiers’ wounds.
Carrie, a movie based off of Stephen King’s best-selling book, was released on 3rd November, 1976. At the helm, is a young girl named Carrie, with telekinetic powers, born to a hyper-religious woman. Carrie holds the significance of being the first movie to show menstrual blood graphically. Although it was shown in a rather negative context, it was the first movie to openly discuss menstruation and menarche.
Kenya becomes the first country to abolish the widely controversial “tampon tax”, which is a sales tax enforced on all products except for those classified under “basic essentials”.
Until 2004, tampons and other sanitary products were not considered to be basic essentials, and were categorized under “luxury products”. However, even as on this date, many countries still have a tax on pads.
Arunachalam Muruganantham, an Indian man from Tamil Nadu, watched his wife and daughters use dirty rags while on their period, simply because sanitary pads were too expensive to buy. He decided to invent a way to produce cheap pads, and after a lot of research, he found out that pads, which cost less than Rs. 10 to produce, were commercially sold for approximately 7 times the cost. He invented a machine which made pads at only 1 rupee, and took it to IIT Madras, where he won a prize for machine innovation. He now sells this machine to women’s self-help groups and NGOs. He has refused any commercial help.
A German NGO called WASH United started 'International Menstrual Hygiene Day', to be celebrated on May 28th of every year, starting from 2014.
They provide sanitary assistance to the economically backward areas of the world; providing free hygiene products, proper disposal of pads, and awareness on health and hygiene. The reason this date was selected was because the average menstrual cycle of a woman is 28 days.
Rupi Kaur, a popular Canadian poet of Indian origin, posted a picture on Instagram of menstrual bloodstain on her bed sheets. The picture was taken down by Instagram, as it 'did not adhere to community guidelines'. This pushed women all around the world to post pictures of their own menstrual bloodstains in protest. Rupi Kaur, along with many other women, have been vocal about removing the taboo on periods, and the movement started here.
After widespread protests and marches on sanitary pads being taxed at 18%, the Government of India finally removed the tax.
The movie 'Padman' was also released this year, based on the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, thus proving that India is taking big steps towards finally removing the stigma around menstruation.
Although the world has progressed a lot in recent years, we cannot ignore the fact that we still have a long way to go.
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