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Sanitary supplies are still considered a 'luxury' by most men who do not understand why they are critical, a result of the silence around periods.
Sanitary supplies are still considered a ‘luxury’ by most men who do not understand why they are critical, a result of the silence around periods.
People in the times of lockdown have panic bought a lot of stuff whether necessary or not. In the initial days many bought stuff they never used in their lifetime. However when the lockdown was extended numerous times, the fear of shortage subsided and now we buy only the essentials.
Exceptions are there as usual. I had to experience a rush for sanitary napkins in the lockdown. This happened about a month ago.
When the lockdown was imposed I was one among many who stocked the sanitary pads for at least two cycles. I had no idea that we would be under lockdown for so long. I had two cycles by April and so all stock had been used. It was time for the next periods for which I had nothing.
I went to the medical shop which is very close to my house. I was a bit surprised to see there were only two packs of a basic one variety. No other brand was there. Though I was disappointed I did not lose hope. I went to two other medical shops, found nothing there too. Then I really started to worry. What if I don’t get any?
So the next day I went to the same medical shops, found the same. I went to the grocery shops, here too no stock. I came to know that none of the shops in vicinity had sanitary napkins.
It was really scary then. My periods were due anytime. The moment was so desperate then. Despite lockdown and other restrictive measures, I was forced to go further. The area was completely short on napkins, except for a stray pack here and there.
I was now in a fix – how was I going to manage? I was wondering how other women were doing. Didn’t anyone think of women having periods? How was it that, as basic as essential a product had escaped the attention of those who decided these things?
At one point I was literally running between shops so as to avoid touching anyone, and in a hurry before my first leak happened. It was so horrible I was in tears and trembling. Even a huge online retailer denied my order because our area is still a red zone. Major online sites denied delivery. Finally that evening I found that one online retailer accepted my order, that too thankfully the brand I wanted.
Well the order was accepted, they would deliver the next day, and it was a big pack, but that was more than I had hoped for. It was a bad night, wondering if I was going to leak, and thankfully, they delivered in the morning.
All grocery and medical shop in my area had men shopkeepers, and invariably when I asked for sanitary napkins, especially for the brand I wanted, they were like ‘are you out of your mind? You should be grateful that this is available’. And then they got irritated that I was making fuss about periods and napkins. Of course I spoke for other women too. Because I had no idea how every other woman was managing. These shopkeepers were not concerned about replenishing the stock either!
Lockdown has been hard to everyone in one way or the other. But whatever the problems I faced were very simple. I am privileged enough to have all three basic needs for now and tomorrow.
The sanitary napkins scarcity had exposed to me one thing. How do our people see it, buy it, or store it? Majority of them feel that this is one of the luxuries in modern lives.
While I understand that there are still many taboos around menstruation and pads, I wonder where it took the form of luxury.
Sanitary napkins are the first and foremost basic necessity for a woman. I was looked down upon by a few as they thought that I was looking for ‘a luxury’ when there are ‘more essential’ demands to be attended to. It is not like when vegetables are not available, you are forced to eat pulses. We need to go a long way with how we think of menstruation and these products.
I did not have the thought of stocking up the pads initially, but once I had seen where it would lead me to, I bought a big pack enough for three or four months now. I am not proud of stocking it up, but I do not want to face the harsh scarcity of pads, going through all of that again.
Like the domestic violence surge, the abuses at home the mental health of women, the burden inside homes having to work doubly, the essential nature of sanitary napkins is also eluding social attention. It’s time society stopped thinking that all these are luxuries to talk about.
Image source: a still from the film Dear Zindagi
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
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