Academy Award Winning Short Documentary Sheds Light on India’s Menstruation Shame


Kate Guthrie, Staff Writer

       Period. End of Sentence. directed by Rayka Zehtabchi and produced by Melissa Berton won the 91st Academy Award for “Best Short Documentary.” The documentary showcases a group of women in Hapur, India fighting to end the stigma surrounding menstruation. Directed and produced by two talented females in a seemingly male-dominated field, this award-winning documentary focuses on the gender inequality that exists in India by shining a light on a small village where menstruation is associated with impurity and disrespect. Girls in India are isolated and stigmatized by society during menstruation. According to the film’s director, “[t]his stigma has prevented girls and young women from staying in education, worshiping in temples, and having access to basic sanitary products.” CNN special writer Anisha Bhavani details her experience of being reprimanded after attempting to enter an Indian temple while on her period. Expressing her outrage, Bhavani explains, “I refuse to be treated as less capable, weaker, dirt or impure,” simply as a result of a natural feminine process. On September 28, 2018, in a much-anticipated opinion, India’s Supreme Court lifted the colonial-era ban that prevented women of “menstruating age” from entering a house of worship. Chief justice Dipak Misra wrote that patriarchal beliefs were not more important than equality in devotion. “Religion cannot be the cover to deny women the right to worship, he said. “To treat women as children of a lesser God is to blink at constitutional morality.” (The New York Times). Despite the Supreme Court’s rejection of period shaming practices, men protested against the two women who entered the Hindu Temple to pray arguing that the women defiled the sacred holy place. The riots and unrest suggest that Indian society may not be ready for a more progressive stance on gender equality.

    While western society may struggle with gender equality, in most developed countries girls have easy access to feminine hygiene products and menstruation is not considered taboo. Girls in India, however, drop out of school or miss several days of class each month because they lack access to hygiene products and toilets. The documentary details the women of Hapur making low-cost sanitary pads on a new machine in order to catalyze their movement toward financial independence and equality (Netflix). Women and girls must have basic hygiene products to enable them to leave their homes and fight for gender equality. While laws and cultural norms hold Indian women back, the documentary highlights that the first hurdle to overcome is making simple hygiene products available to girls in India, which developed nations clearly take for granted.