It is not a very rare sight to witness something like this – you walk on the roads and you spot several used sanitary napkins scattered all around. The immediate reaction we tend to have is one of disgust and anger. On the other hand, this anger extends to embarrassment when we are accompanied by a male partner.
The problem of properly disposing sanitary napkins has always been present because of the taboos and the myths attached to women’s menstrual cycles. I remember when I initially started menstruating; I used to flush the pad down the commode because the thought of taking out my used sanitary napkins from the washroom in front of the male members of my house was quite a shameful affair, one I didn’t fancy going through. It was only after my mother forbade me from doing so that I stopped flushing it down and as a matter of fact, I purposely decided to mentally shut myself out from the fact that my uncouth adversely affected the drainage system.
What followed next was that I was asked by my mother to properly wrap the used napkins in a black plastic bag, tie it up tightly and then discard them in the trash bin near the flat we lived in. This practice continued for several years until I was in college till one fine day when the trash bin was removed by the local municipal body. The reason, I later found out, was that the stray dogs used to dig into the trash, pull out the used sanitary napkins among other garbage items and reluctantly scatter the entire area with debris.
Nowadays, discarding my sanitary napkins is much easier a task as all I am required to do when I am on my monthly cycle is to wake up early and give it to the garbage collector who comes to our house every morning. At least now I know that my used pads will not be the cause of a stench in public spaces or be the cause of embarrassment for someone else on the road.
Our lives are not restricted to our homes as our workplaces are very important since we spend a significant amount of time there. Many offices do not keep any emergency sanitary napkins or immediate pain relief medicines for their female employees. My ten-year old office which I joined a few months ago does not even have a trash bin inside the bathroom for women to dispose their sanitary napkins into . I am currently the only female employee left in the organisation and only I know how I manage those four days of the month. Every time I change my pad, I go out of the office to discard it at the local dustbin nearby.
Realising that if I alone am facing so many problems, I dread to imagine how others are dealing with it. While conversing with the lady in my beauty parlour upon the topic of menstruation, I realised that we are all collectively trapped in this cycle of shame, taboo and myth when it comes to periods. She discards her used sanitary napkins by throwing it out of the window into the local drain. “We have a small bin in our parlour bathroom, but I don’t throw my used pads there. It is very embarrassing because there are other male members also using the same washroom, “she confessed to me. My attempt on trying to educate her was futile because she is also engulfed in the same level of shame just like I was, thirteen years ago.
It is not that I don’t have the courage to go and speak to my boss and fight for my right, funny as it may sound, for my right to have a dustbin inside the washroom. It might sound too petty even, but my seemingly ‘small’ right will mean the proper disposal of sanitary napkins without affecting the health of a female employee and ensuring her hygiene. My right also stands for not affecting the environment and not polluting surrounding areas. Last and most certainly not the least, my right stands for respecting every woman, her body and most importantly, her menstrual cycle.
Author: Sarmistha Neogy
Sarmistha is a copy writer at a digital ad agency and also works as a freelance journalist. She is scared of numbers and wonders how she managed to pass her mathematics paper in tenth grade, till today. Out of the very little time when she is not lazing around, Sarmistha tries to pen down her opinions and feelings on the little things around us at : A splash of colours in my life
Editor: Divya Rosaline