This article was written by Ujjaini Chatterji a student of Symbiosis Law School, Noida.
When I was a kid, I was very proud to be a girl. My pride was completely detached from my sexuality and was rather, an affirmation of the constant societal indoctrination. I found dignity in the belief that, as a woman, my only responsibility would be to appear graceful, value traditions and impart similar learning into the children that I bear. I was the upholder of passage of principles into the future generations. So much of perceived and stereotypical gender roles, were spoken to me, with such crafty sugar coating that I felt happy about how important I would be in keeping alive traditions. My liberation too, was a part of being oppressed into stereotypes. For, rights came with a lot of responsibilities. The ‘dignity’ of a woman would later, restrict many of my liberties. Though, the honor was a complete subject under the watchful judgments of a patriarchal society.
The liberation of women was molded with utmost perfection to fit into our sense of conformity. No matter, how human my sensibilities and body was, in order to be ‘dignified’ , I was required to be the perfect Goddess with the right sparkle on my face and the perfect smoothness throughout my meticulously shaved anatomy. My clothes had to be so full that they covered my shame, because, my body, was essentially something to be ashamed of.
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of human rights, states, that everyone has a right to education and in my country, India, too, Education, now, is a fundamental right. Yet, I remember how I had missed several days of classes in my elitist convent, when my class teacher sent my back home, whenever I informed her about myself having my menstruation. A little stain on my skirt would be the worst nightmare and I would cringe like the worst criminal, as I returned home. Patriarchy, called it my ‘Dignity’, but to me, this dignity was a burden when it imposed all the boundaries to my movement. Menstruation was my biggest shame. I was disallowed to pray, to learn or even express anything about it. It was a reality that the society chose to hide beneath the sheets of the perfection of my womanhood.
I grew up, thinking that this was an absolutely personal story of my own nation and society. However, my recent interaction with a Ugandan Non Government Organization, called, the Umbrella of Hope, changed my perspective. Irrespective of geography, patriarchy was a reality in the modern world.
According to the resolution 64/292 passed in the year 2010, the United Nations has explicitly recognized Sanitation as a basic human right for all citizens across the world.
Now, according to the constitution of Uganda, as well, Article 30, guarantees every Ugandan citizen, a Right to Education with equality to all citizens. The constitution also recognizes sanitation as a basic requirement of human beings.
Needless to say, the Indian Constitution, also stands for both, Right to Education which falls under Article 21A and Right to Sanitation which are both also, recognized under the Right to Life under Article 21 as was described in his beautiful understanding of the laws by Justice Krishna Iyer in the Judgement of Municipal Council of Ratlam v Shri Vardichand & others. Yet, the reality of illiteracy in India or the sanitation including instances of manual scavenging are not unknown.
Many women in India, as they try battle the patriarchy and prejudice are now trying to educate the country about menstruation. Young girls, instead of being shackled in taboo, are coming out in the open and joining together to feel the purity of the natural anatomy and biological processes. If bearing life is divine, so should be the biological processes that lead to it. If women do not menstruate, our generation shall not grow; leave alone, women imparting values to them.
Just like in India and my surroundings, I see women sit helpless when they bleed every month, girls, in Uganda, too are struggling to survive this tyranny of honor. Around three million girls, every year, drop out of school, because of the unavailability of sanitary support during their menstruation. Some of them even use terribly unhygienic substances like rags! After dropping out, these girls are married off as early as fourteen year.
I have never met any Ugandan woman. But, I had seen every Indian child bride in all of them. They reminded me of my country’s millions of Dalit women who remain in the most sub human categories. Of course, according to a latest bill passed in the Rajya Sabha, child labor is not longer an absolute crime. Perhaps, when the most personal feelings are connected, boundaries of nationality, economics and everything else disappear.
The stitching umbrella of Hope, has initiated a project to provide affordable and reusable sanitary pads to orphaned children the Mayuge District Uganda.
Let us all unite in whichever way we can to make an effort in protecting the future of these women. I trust that every little contribution counts. And trust me, this is no charity. We are only doing our conscience a little favor.
To contribute, please visit: http://umbrellaofhopeuganda.org/en/make-a-donation/
This is a group supported by the United Nations Organization and I found them as volunteer of the UNO. I had started by contributing Rupees ten to them. Well, it’s still more substantial that buying a cigarette with it when it saves a life.