Ramadan for women has never been the same as that for men. Women are constantly weighed down by oppressive patriarchy and it's no different during Ramadan. In addition to carrying out their regular rest of the year duties, the women are also expected to shoulder chores around the house, whilst fasting. I thought things couldn't get worse until one of my friends brought to my attention the decades-old practice of women concocting elaborate ruses to keep their periods a secret from men, during Ramadan.
Dear readers, did you know that a significant number of women in our country have to consume sehri and pretend to fast so as to keep their periods a secret during Ramadan, owing to the menstrual cycle's taboo nature?
I didn't. At least not until recently.
Here's what happens – when menstrual calendars of all the ladies in a specific household strike that dreaded "Day 1", they all immediately get to work trying to somehow cover it all up. The preparation that follows is no less than those taken by a criminal covering their tracks. Every precaution is taken so that the issue does not attract attention in any way, such is the taboo nature of periods. To ensure their covers are not blown, the women of the house create a ruse, by sitting down for sehri with the rest of the family, pretending to fast alongside them.
An elaborate ploy, no doubt. But is it a practice to be normalised? Absolutely not.
Menstruation is not something to be swept under the rug, it must be dealt with appropriately. Encouraging the practice of the aforementioned activity will only enhance the taboo surrounding the menstrual cycle, which can result in adverse consequences for women. Due to its taboo nature, the schools in our country, co-educational or otherwise, refrain from studying the menstrual cycle in detail. Girls end up feeling awkward in studying the topic and instead choose to rely on misinformation surrounding menstrual hygiene.
Health problems related to the menstrual cycle, namely polycystic ovarian syndrome/polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD/PCOS), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), dysmenorrhea, etc. can often go unreported or undiagnosed due to the patient's reluctance to discuss her menstrual cycle at length. Even more so, underprivileged women in our country often resort to using crude substitutes for sanitary napkins, rather than buying the cheap, locally-produced pads. They feel too embarrassed about menstruation to treat sanitary pads like a basic sanitary necessity.
While my parents have never enforced such irrational practices within our household, I can't say the same about that of my friend's. She and her mother have to sneakily scarf down food in the kitchen, in between cooking iftar meals for the rest of the family. They are made to feel ashamed of their periods, like many other women oppressed by the patriarchy.
At the end of the day, menstruating is a bodily function. It's a process that removes waste materials from the human body, or, specifically, the female body. Nothing taboo there.
Rasha Jameel is an overzealous Ravenclaw who often draws inspiration from mundane things such as memes. Send her your thoughts at email@example.com