The recent campaign in Jadavpur University, Kolkata, has caused quite a furor.
It was the sanitary napkin campaign, in protest against India’s patriarchy and rape culture. A group of students calling themselves ‘Periods’ had messages written on sanitary napkins. These were then stuck on walls all across the campus. The scribbled messages were clear- to break society’s taboo on speaking about menstruation, bring about gender sensitization and the stigma of those raped or molested.
The protests were drawn in line with the international ‘Pads Against Sexism’ campaign that was started on International Women’s Day (March 8) by a German woman named Elonë Kastratia. Elone had messages against rape and sexism written on sanitary pads, sticking them at public places in Karlsruhe in Germany. What inspired her was a tweet that said “Imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods”.
The campaign however saw disapproval from the university. Jadavpur University set up a three-member fact-finding panel to probe the matter, as it was considered to be socially unacceptable. Similar protests were seen at Delhi’s Jamia Milia earlier that had led to four students being show caused.
The campaign got me thinking. What was the university basically against? Were they against the messages? Were they against the protest? Or were they against the use of a Sanitary Napkin as a medium around the campus?
Menstruation is still a taboo subject among the progressive masses as well.
This taboo strongly prevails across societies. Almost all women across India are often told to maintain some sort of seclusion during their cycles. From abstaining from religious activities to visiting a temple, the whole episode is considered as something impure or dirty. This is despite the knowledge most people have, that menstruation is a sign of a healthy body. It is a part of humankind and cannot be alienated to women alone. In the bygone ages, in an era where the modern sanitary napkins weren’t really available, seclusions must have been purely to avoid any sort of embarrassment for the lady. It would also have been to help her relax and maintain a certain degree of hygiene. But under the present day context, such seclusions are really unwarranted for.
How often have we noticed parents squirming in their seats when there is a sanitary napkin advertisement? Not wanting their child to watch it, they are quick enough to change the channel.The discussion on such a subject is almost always a no. It is a taboo.
Despite removal of all the sanitary napkins from the campus within 24 hours of the campaign, the students of Jadavpur university have raised some valid questions.
- What is socially acceptable and what is not?
- Is the sanitary napkin not acceptable?
- Is menstruation not acceptable?
- Or are women as a whole not acceptable to society?
I leave you thinking …. along with a few snapshots of my favourite campaign messages.