Calicut Medical College students fight menstrual taboos

Pleasant news from my old campus.

How many of you will be comfortable with walking across the college garden with an uncovered packet of sanitary napkins in your hand?” asked Karthika, a final year student at the Calicut Medical College.


My two years at Calicut Medical College had taught me that despite being budding doctors, most students here had prehistoric mindsets. This was especially true when it came to gender issues. There were boys who refrained from examining female patients. There were girls who meticulously covered their sanitary napkins in black covers and considered their own body, a dirty secret. All my previous attempts to conduct an open discussion in support of the Happy to Bleed movement had been futile and most of the girls were comfortable with the shrouds of silence that surrounded female sexuality.

When Karthika repeated the question, I could sense the disappointment in her words. The girls in the meeting room were silent, most of them coyly staring at their laps or mobile phones. I knew it was time to break the silence. “It is a fact that all the textbook knowledge we have gobbled up has not prevented us from treating female bodies as dirty and unspeakable,” I said. I talked about a large number of women who suffer silently from health problems just because menstruation is a taboo topic. Most of us had seen women using dirty rags during their periods and girls with little scientific knowledge about their bodies. “If medicos don’t speak out against this, who else will?” asked Karthika again and this time her question received several nods of agreement.

Thus started a movement to compile micro tales on menstrual taboos. In four days they got around hundred entries. Best five entries were given awards in a function.

In my time as a student, I cannot imagine such a thing happening. Happy to see the new generation youngsters of my Medical College not only learning science but also reacting very positively to social and gender issues.


  1. fledanow says

    I am a lucky survivor of advanced ovarian cancer and have seen many of my sister patients die. Quite a few of them had their diagnoses delayed because their doctors did not listen to them and dismissed them as anxious or depressed or exaggerating, even when they developed ascites that made their abdomens tight as a drum and made the women look pregnant. Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose but such cases demonstrate not this difficulty but the attitude of the physician swho, unlike my doctor, did not take the symptoms seriously because they were complained of by women. It is not only in India that woman are dismissed and women’s diseases are not recognized. Women die because of this attitude.

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