Why Netflix’s 'Period. End of Sentence' is a grim reminder to our society
An Oscar nominated documentary. Which shows India’s continuing culture of silence and shame surrounding menstruation.
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‘What is period?’
‘Is it related to the periods in school, after each of which there rings a bell?’
(Probably not, in chuckles)
‘Have you heard of mahwadi?’
‘Yes, it’s a disease — mostly affecting women’
Unfortunately, this is not a script.
A group of young men was answering a few real questions about menstruation in a Netflix documentary titled Period. End of Sentence. The 25-minute documentary, directed by Iranian-American director Rayka Zehtabchi, has an Oscar nomination. The documentary shows how periods, a natural and normal physical condition, still remains a dark secret for many young Indians. And all this happens in Hapur — just 60 km away from the national capital, Delhi.
The distance is one of the highlights of the documentary.
If they think menstruation is a 'disease', then the actual disease is far bigger. (Photo: Netflix)
Every time a movie or a documentary educating us about menstrual hygiene and sexual curiosity releases, we call it 'timely'.
But no, in fact, it's quite behind schedule. We should have started this conversation long ago. Just as Nepal should have banned 'chhaupadi' (the custom of forcing menstruating women to stay in huts separate from others) long ago.
But the documentary is certainly inspirational.
A village girl, brave enough to say in front of a camera that she wants to be a police officer some day in order to escape marriage, takes up the initiative to start a pad-manufacturing unit in her village. Her village elders, who used to think that menstrual blood was ‘impure blood’, come forward in manufacturing and selling these pads. The film ends as the girl dreams of taking her sanitary napkin brand to Delhi, once she joins the Delhi Police.
But Delhi is so far away.
The village depicted in the documentary has electricity, pucca roads and houses. When the pad-making unit, inspired by 'Padman' Arunachalam Muruganantham, is being demonstrated, women who had previously giggled just hearing the word ‘period’ or ‘mahwadi’, take out their phones to make videos.
Yes, there’s the tight slap for our society.
A UN report once revealed that more Indians have access to smartphones than to toilets. This documentary shows the same. For the lack of toilets, we can blame the government. But for this, we have to blame ourselves.
We did our periods wrong. Absolutely wrong. Be it Hapur or anywhere else.
We need to empower both women and men to learn about periods without silence or shame. (Photo: Netflix)
Young girls recoiling the moment they hear ‘pad’ and ‘menstruation’ — as if they would be punished for menstruating. Young men thinking menstruation is a 'disease', which mostly affects women (hinting that it could affect men also, showing the utter lack of education on this topic) are not exclusive to Hapur. They are to be found everywhere in India.
Will this condition change?
Not as long as the older men of the village get flustered while uttering the word 'pad'. It's not that they don't know the word.
They are ashamed of it.
Not as long as a woman who wants to set up a sanitary pad machine in her house needs to tell her husband that it would produce something like nappies.
This is not the right way. Education about periods needs far better direction than this.