The euphoria over the movie ‘Padman’ has long faded and the Supreme Court’s ruling that discrimination on physiological grounds was violative of fundamental rights lies forgotten. From homes to offices, and governments to society, menstruation and menstrual rights don’t figure in discussions. And women remain sufferers — of immense pain, shame, and incarceration, too, month after month. Deprived of toilets and tools to manage periods, a large section is denied the basic right to hygienic management of menstruation.
Human rights lawyer Farah Ahamed’s anthology is a grim reminder of the steps not taken further. It gives a peek into menstruation related practices across South Asia and the plight of women.
Author Shashi Deshpande narrates her own story of menstruation and how she grew out of shame. Transwomen Farzana and Chandan, from Pakistan, relate how mimicking rituals of menstruation makes them feel more feminine. Classical dancer Amna Mawaz Khan writes on choreographing a menstrual dance; Tashi Zangmo on her efforts with the nuns in Bhutan; Radha Paudel writes about her mission to have menstrual dignity acknowledged as a human right in Nepal. Ahamed’s essay on the male and female writers’ gaze on menstruation is a searing text. Parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor, poets Rupi Kaur and Tishani Doshi, artist Anish Kapoor, actress Lisa Ray — the list of contributors is long and impressive.
The book cover, lotus flowers floating in blood, is by Jaipur-based Lyla FreeChild, who has been harvesting her menstrual blood for years to use it as paint.