Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019: For some, puberty means no school, early marriage
Even as society is opening up, puberty still rings wedding bells in the life of some teenage girls. It is another matter that after marriage, they struggle hard to shoulder family responsibilities.Updated: May 28, 2019 15:48 IST
When 12-year-old Mamta of Shravasti had her first period, her parents decided to stop sending her to school and started her marriage preparations.
Mamata was married to a boy of neighbouring Bhinga village around 4 years back. Her parents started preparations for her ‘gauna’ (ceremonial shifting of a girl to her husband’s house from her parents’ place ) post puberty, without even thinking about the health hazards and special care required for the girl who was taken off school and made busy with household chores.
“Jitni jaldi ghar bas jaaye, uske liye utna achcha hai. (The sooner she is settled, the better for her),” said her father Braj Prasad, a daily wager for whom puberty is a divine signal to get a girl married.
In Malihabad’s Birpur village, Saraswati, 16, got married two years back. “I use a tattered piece of cloth during my periods. I have learnt it from my mother,” she said. When asked whether she had heard about sanitary napkins, the girl said, “Maine nahi liya. Is par paisa kaun kharcha karega. (I have not bought it. Who will spend money on it).”
This is not the story of only a Mamta or a Saraswati.
Even as society is opening up, puberty still rings wedding bells in the life of some teenage girls. It is another matter that after marriage, they struggle hard to shoulder family responsibilities.
In Varanasi’s Arajiline block, there have been several such cases. An activist Swati Singh said, “Puberty for parents means the girl has grown up. Fearing that she may get involved in a love affair or fall prey to crime against women, the parents find marriage a solution.”
Singh organized Masika Mahotsav to sensitise girls about menstrual hygiene, which everyone ignores. “During those five days girls need utmost care and nutrition. Bleeding makes girls worried and they are discriminated against within the family. This is a mental trauma,” she added.
Teenage brides are married mostly after puberty and after their marriage they do not get the ‘homely’ atmosphere in their in-law’s house.
Saumya Khandelwal, an independent photographer said,“I have photographed girls as young as young as 10 years old, who are married. However, they start living in their husband’s house after a ceremony called ‘Gauna’ which usually happens once a girl reaches puberty. The villages I worked in were remote, and the girls did not have access to sanitary napkins. Also, because the mother in law and other women in the family went through the same problem, there is no effort made to understand or rectify it.”