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Poor menstrual hygiene poses new challenge for Kashmir women

January 7, 2020

Srinagar, Jan 6: Rehana (name changed), 22, an artisan from a poor family, shudders at the memory of a morning, when she woke up to the searing pain of boils in her intimate area. Unable to bear the burning pain, she confided to a female friend who accompanied her to a doctor.

“It was the last day of my menstrual cycle and I was expecting a relief from the back pain. On the contrary, my pain grew manifold due to the occurrence of boils. I felt hesitant about sharing this with my mother so I told my friend,” she recalled.

The young female was put on antibiotics for two weeks. To her surprise she landed at the clinic again after a month seeking the same treatment. 

“The reappearance of boils in such a short span of time after taking antibiotics surprised me. After delving into the problem, I came to know that she maintained a very poor hygiene during her menstrual cycle,” explained Dr Rahila Yousuf, Consultant Gynecologist at JLNM Hospital, Rainawari.   

Similarly, Shazia, 16, stopped telling her mother about her periods after developing recurrent rashes in the private area.

“It was after I felt a frequent burning sensation and an urge to urinate repeatedly that I couldn’t hold any longer. I was rushed to the doctor who asked me to undergo ultrasonography,” she said.

The teenager was diagnosed with urinary tract infection which had developed due to the poor hygiene. “Her unhealthy menstrual hygiene was responsible for the infection. She was subjected to anti-fungal drugs to which she responded positively,” her doctor said.

Menstruation is still considered a taboo in Kashmiri society. Even today, the cultural and social influences on people create a major hurdle in ensuring that the adolescent girls are given proper knowledge on menstrual hygiene.

Dr Rahila pointed out when women do not have access to proper sanitation and hygiene facilities it creates a higher risk for contagion for any infectious disease.

“The common outcomes of unhealthy menstruation management can be dermatitis, urinary tract infections (UTIs), genital tract infection, alteration in the pH balance of vaginal secretions, bacterial vaginitis, all leading to increased susceptibility to cervical cancer,” she said. 

She said that the prevalence of menstrual health disorders is found in large section of women particularly lower income group as they mostly use cloth during periods.

Another gynecologist Dr Auqfeen Nisar stressed that menstrual health cannot be achieved only through smart and safe products.

“The shift in attitudes and behavior towards better hygiene is also much needed for which we work on social norms and patriarchal systems. Apart from these, better access to safe sanitation eg. Toilet including disposal pathways through better waste management and safe water is of utmost necessity,” said Dr Auqfeen, who has been spearheading a campaign called ‘Panin Fikir’ to break the menstrual taboo in the valley. 

Earlier, a study was undertaken by doctors of Government Medical College Srinagar with aim to estimate burden of various menstrual disorders among females in the reproductive age-group.

According to the study, “Menstrual problems were common in Kashmiri females. 10 % females had irregular periods. The mean duration of bleeding was 4.89 ± 1.45 days. .  Dysmenorrhea was most common  menstrual  disorder  present  in  51%  females  followed  by  PMS  (48%)  and  menorrhagia (24%).” 

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Hirra Azmat

When the world fails to make sense, Hirra Azmat seeks solace in words. Both worlds, literary and the physical lend color to her journalism.

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