Understanding Period Poverty: A Sociological Perspective In India

Khurana and Khurana


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It can be deciphered that merely 50 per cent of the girls/women who have faced Period Poverty as well as girls/women survey takers, in toto, are aware of the scheme, which is ‘satisfactory'...
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It can be deciphered that merely 50 per cent of the girls/women who have faced Period Poverty as well as girls/women survey takers, in toto, are aware of the scheme, which is 'satisfactory' and there lies a major scope for the improvement. The Government, as well as society together, should strive to take it at least to 80 per cent. From the analysis, news reports, government reports and studies provided above, the third hypothesis also stands true.

Psychological Impact of Period Poverty

The fourth hypothesis is that Period Poverty adversely affects the psychological well-being of a woman/girl. A Qualitative study conducted in December 2012, titled "Emotional and Psychosocial Aspects of Menstrual Poverty in Resource-Poor Settings: A Qualitative Study of the Experiences of Adolescent Girls in an Informal Settlement in Nairobi", by Joanna Crichton, Jerry Okal, Caroline W Kabiru, Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu showcased the adverse effects on the psychological well-being of individuals who faced Period Poverty in Kenya (Nairobi). After 34 in-depth interviews and collecting Qualitative data from 18 focus groups, the study acknowledged that menstrual poverty severely affects the psychology of a girl and its emotional impacts are likely to include anxiety, embarrassment, fear of stigma, and low mood.

Moreover, the lack of awareness further deteriorated the psychology of women as most of the girls who hit menarche are unaware of menstruation as a result of which they get horrified, shocked and depressed. Even many girls feel that they were dying or falling seriously ill.1 (Julie Hennegan, et al., 2019) In Australia, menstruation is still a source of shame and girls living in poverty steal sanitary pads, as it amounts to more than 10 Australian Dollars, so as to deal with the complications that they face during the time of periods. (University of Queensland).

Role of Social Taboos and Myths

Moreover, the study mention that girls/women due to "pad shame" i.e., stigma attached to sanitary napkins suffer in silence. Suffering in silence is a major concern that certainly gave birth to 'clinical depression'. Depression is a major psychological problem, that is why it is often termed as 'silent killer'. In a survey by UNICEF, nearly 41 per cent of Indian youth said that they need mental care. Hence, menstrual poverty and stigma attached to menstruation and menstrual products is a huge concern that might even lead to the death of the victim thereby, it needs to be addressed.

FIGURE 8 shows the number of the participant(s) who faced psychological issues (a few issues were already mentioned in the Question) as a result of Period Poverty. The results showcase that 31.6% i.e., 37 out of 117 have faced low mood, 21.4% i.e., 25 participants have faced anxiety, 14.5% i.e., 17 individuals have faced Nervousness or Embarrassment, and 10.3% i.e., 12 survey takers have faced Fear of Sigma as a consequence of Period Poverty and lack of Menstrual Health Management at a certain place. 01 individual has faced nothing as a result of Period Poverty while 01 has mentioned that she got very sad, regretting the fact that she is a girl. She further mentioned that society stigmatizes this issue, getting periods at school or any other public place embarrassed her a lot. Thus, it is disheartening and evident enough to showcase the psychological complications that one faces due to the absence of any Menstrual Hygiene Management.

Hence, the fourth hypothesis also stands true that Period Poverty adversely affects the psychology of a woman/girl.

Social Taboos, Myths, and Misconceptions vis-à-vis Period Poverty

The fifth hypothesis is that social taboos, myths and misconceptions play a crucial role in further aggravating the issue of Period Poverty. As already mentioned in the discussion on the third and fourth hypotheses that lack of awareness plays a crucial role in thriving the social taboos prevalent in the society and existing social taboos further adversely affect the psychological well-being of girls/women.

However, the very basis on which Hinduism rests is the Vedas. The Four Vedas viz., Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda nowhere mention that menstruation girls/women are 'impure' or that they cannot perform pooja during menstruation, thereby completely shelving off the myth and misconceptions giving birth to social taboos. There have been many restrictions on women during menstruations, but the very basis of those restrictions was to not aggravate their pain during periods. Those restrictions are only related to health and security concerns.2 (Times of India, 2015) There were sages like Gargi, Maitreyi, Bharati, Katyayani, et al in Vedic ages. The Agnihotra Yagna, which is performed daily by vaidiks, is considered as mahayagna. It can be clearly deciphered from the Vedas that this yagna is to be performed by both men and women. The yagna is to be performed daily without fail, thereby if there were any restrictions on women during their menstruation, then how can a woman do the yagna during her monthly periods?

However, the society threw its culture out of the window and without giving any importance to them and knowing the intent behind them started following them blindly, which gave birth to social taboos. As mentioned, Such taboos aggravate the negative impact of menstruation on girls' and women's psychology, emotional state, health during their menstruation cycle. Over 77 per cent of menstruating girls and women in India use old cloth, which is often reused. Further, 88 per cent of women in India sometimes resort to using ashes, newspapers, dried leaves and husk sand to aid absorption.3 (Suneela Garg and Tanu Anand, 2015)

Moreover, inadequate washing facilities and poor security are likely to increase the susceptibility to infection as well as increase the foul smell of menstrual blood putting girls at the risk of being stigmatized at public places (including schools, etc.).

In FIGURE 6, most of the survey takers stated that they started carrying sanitary napkins and other menstrual hygiene products during their periods so as to prevent any mishap. However, they faced "pad shame", nervousness and embarrassment, fear of stigma, etc. (FIGURE 8) The second majority answer was that they stayed back at home during their period irrespective of any important work they have to perform at their workplace, go somewhere outside or attend school to attempt examinations. Thus, the discussion made proves the fact that social taboos, myths and misconceptions further aggravate the issues relating to Period Poverty.

The last and sixth hypothesis is that authorities fail in providing access to basic menstrual hygiene facilities. A survey was conducted by Hindustan Times, during the 2018-19 session, on over 10,000 schoolgirls, which stated that 2 out of every 3 girls i.e., equal to 66 per cent of girls enrolled in 'Delhi government schools' either skip their classes or take a half-day leave while on periods due to lack of menstrual hygiene facilities available in schools. Another survey published in 2019 by NDTV India conducted during the 2018-19 session mentioned that as many 5.13 lakh dropped out from the government schools of Uttar Pradesh due to lack of menstrual amenities available in them. The survey was conducted on the girls of age group 11-14 years.

Moreover, in India, as mentioned, due to poverty, a considerable portion of girls/women have no access to basic sanitary products or even if they have access, then they have no means to afford it. As a result, they utilise ash, banana leaves, husk, sand and/or unhygienic cloth for menstrual hygiene. In Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh at least 81% of women still use cloth during menstruation.4 (National Family Health Survey (NFHS) IV)

Owing to these very issues, several petitions were also filed in the Hon'ble Court of India. In 2018, Hon'ble Delhi High Court, in a Public Interest Litigation in which it was stated that the Government of NCT of Delhi is underutilising the allocated fund for the promotion of menstrual health, considering the gravity of the matter, mandated the Delhi Government to make all the necessary arrangements in the government schools to disseminate awareness on menstruation and menstrual hygiene and provide free or subsidized access to menstrual hygiene products to the girls. (Setu Niket v. Union of India & Ors.) The step was ten by the Hon'ble Court in order to protect the right to education of adolescent girls.5


After analysing the data received and a little existing research literature available on the topic, it can be concluded that a considerable proportion of Period Poverty exists in India. Further, Economic wellness acts as a linchpin in determining the victims of Period Poverty. The research also threw light on the issue of the lack of awareness among the masses and concluded that it is also a major concern that aggravated the issue of Period Poverty. The respondents also proved the statement that Period Poverty adversely affects the psychology of a girl/woman. The psychological issues primarily thrive due to social taboos, myths and misconceptions prevalent in the Indian society about menstruation, thereby further buttressing the problem of Period Poverty. Moreover, although the governments at the Central as well as State levels have introduced various measures and programs to raise awareness about the issue and protect helpless and underprivileged adolescent girls, yet the implementation mechanism is a major issue on which they should ponder so as to provide access to basic menstrual hygiene facilities to the victims of Period Poverty.


  1. What measures are to be adopted by the Government(s) to effectively implement the policies and plans that endeavour to promote menstrual hygiene management?
  2. What measures are to be adopted to change the behaviour of society towards menstrual hygiene?
  3. What measures are to be taken to help those individuals who suffer psychological implications as a result of Period Poverty?


1 (Julie Hennegan, et al., 2019)

2 (Times of India, 2015)

3 (Suneela Garg and Tanu Anand, 2015)

4 (National Family Health Survey (NFHS) IV)

5 (Setu Niket v. Union of India & Ors.)

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