Akshay Kumar's blockbuster Bollywood film, Pad Man is based on the true story of a man named Muruganantham who invented a machine to create low-cost sanitary towels. He then begins distributing them to rural women across India after he saw what his wife and the women around him had to face on a monthly basis.

The successful movie has at last dealt with access to female hygiene products in #india and this access is clearly increasing with six out of ten women in India now having access to disposable menstrual products compared to the 12% of women in the past.

However, we also need to start talking about and putting a stop to some of the other bizarre beliefs regarding women on their periods which are held throughout the country.

When are periods mentioned in Indian society?

Whilst largely taboo to talk about, the instances where they are spoken about are those of public period shaming. Examples include a teenage girl was taunted by a bus driver after staining part of her bus seat or when a teacher who forced all the girls in a class to strip to see who was menstruating.

What effects have there been of this stigma?

Combined with access to sanitary products, such instances have led to a quarter of girls dropping out of school, according to the Indian Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, one in four girls in India regularly miss a day or more in school due to menstruation.

What restrictions do women on their periods have to face?

However, the stigma which surrounds periods isn't limited to the public as it remains a taboo issue even within the home, and this is across class and educational boundaries.

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Restrictions for women in India include not being able to touch certain foods, being forbidden from entering temples or home shrine areas with some women even banished to a different room or building while menstruating.

As they are often unable to enter temples and shrines during this time, they're unable to participate in religious ceremonies and in some cases are unable to mourn their loved ones.

Why does this happen?

The prevalent notion is that women on their periods are "unhygienic," "polluting," “impure” or “contaminated.”

What needs to be done about this?

Education is key to changing this attitude and must also engage males. Far too often, the response from boys is scoffing and discouraging whilst questions, particularly from girls, regarding periods are quickly dismissed. Menstruating without stigma is a basic human right which many women and girls are denied and it's about time we changed that.

How has Pad Man helped instigate conversation about periods?

Pad Man has initiated the Pad Man Challenge whereby people are being urged to submit photos of themselves holding pads, with a message about how normal periods are, urging people to do away with the stigma and has been picked up by many Indian celebrities and influential figures from entertainment, sport and the media.

Whilst reactions to this challenge have been mixed, with some urging the social media activists in question to distribute free sanitary products in rural areas in India, it has certainly managed to confront the topic that Indian women have been forced to tiptoe around on a monthly basis and hopefully, it shall continue.

#PeriodPride #PadMan