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Women’s hygiene is a crucial topic, says Radhika Apte

Radhika Apte says awareness and education can break the taboos attached to menstruation. The actor adds that change is needed at a “fundamental level”.

fitness Updated: May 07, 2017 18:06 IST
Susan Jose
Susan Jose
Hindustan Times
Radhika Apte,Celebrities Supporting Tax-free Sanitary,Tax-free Sanitary Napkins
Radhika Apte says that as a country, we are very ashamed to talk about, and accept the realities of sexuality and physicality.(Yogen Shah)

I was at school, when I first got my period. I was wearing a white kurta, and I’m not kidding. I knew that something was amiss. When I went to the bathroom to check, everything was red. I freaked out to see so much blood coming out of my body. I am a loser when it comes to blood, injections, etc. (laughs). However, my mum (Jayashree Apte), who is an anaesthesiologist, had made me aware [about periods]. At school as well our teachers had taught us, and I could immediately ask them for help. I remember when I went home that day, my mum got a cake and we celebrated. It wasn’t a huge celebration where she said, ‘Yes, you’ve become a woman’, or, ‘Oh my god, now you need to know five things, my darling’. I was crying in pain. A cake was bought to cheer me up. My mum said, laughing, ‘Yes, it’s going to be a regular thing now. More business to the lady who sells us sanitary napkins’,” says Radhika Apte, pretty much without a pause, as she spoke to HT about feminine health. Excerpts from an interview:

According to Radhika Apte, teens should learn about puberty in a healthy manner. (Aalok Soni/HT Photo)

Many people are taking an initiative to make sanitary napkins tax-free. Some are also attempting to make it free of cost in schools, especially those in rural areas. Your thoughts…

Since I do not know about the exact strategies of these initiatives I wouldn’t be able to comment on them. But I think women’s hygiene is a crucial topic; I cannot highlight it enough. In a lot of villages, the usage of sanitary napkins is not being followed [as a norm]. It is an excellent move to make them available for free. However, taboos will stop people from using it even if they are free. After providing it, one has to make people comfortable with using it as well.

Youngsters find the talk on puberty quite awkward. How can the topic be approached in a pragmatic manner?

That age is the most awkward phase. To add to it, our culture is very deep-rooted. We have to do what we can to change the situation for the better. It’s a practical thing and should be taught to both the genders together. It should be part of the school curriculum, so that teens can learn about it in a healthy manner.

Even among adults, periods are discussed in hush-hush tones…

On one hand, there’s a lot being talked about when it comes to women’s freedom, equality, their right to choose, to chase their dreams and find success. However, several things stop them from doing what they want, one of them being periods. I do not mean the actual pain, but practical issues such as ‘Oh, I’ll stain my dress’. On the other hand, as a country, we are very ashamed to talk about, and accept the realities of sexuality and physicality. That needs to change on a larger and fundamental level. One way of doing that is education, and the other is awareness. We need to raise awareness with campaigns, for example, Whisper has come up with a lot of campaigns for breaking taboos.

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The author tweets @iamsusanjose

First Published: Apr 25, 2017 18:43 IST