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“Social taboos are shy like virtue; once lost, there is no remedy” – Gunnar Myrdal.

‘Brave men don’t cry, girls shouldn’t talk about their periods, men shouldn’t apply makeup, girls aren’t required to wear clothes which boys wear and vice versa, pads cannot be sold openly without wrapping it in a black polythene, divorce is a sin, etc.’ are the social comments or actions that are regarded as taboos. Taboo is a strong social prohibition in contradiction of words, objects, actions, or discussions anything that is taken improper is considered undesirable and offensive by a group, culture, society, or community. No one tells you where a taboo originates from because you might’ve heard the saying – “this thing has been considered forbidden since our ancestor’s period.” There is no evidence to support the taboo a society imposes on people because wait? The society restrains to openly talk about the sensitive issues which affects the youth due to lack of knowledge.

Let’s start with the comment – “brave men don’t cry.” This quote is labelled on a male gender the moment he steps out from his mother’s womb/uterus. I agree that steps are being taken to change this statement but still, in many household’s boys are forbidden to cry otherwise, their family members or social community will label them as a girl. And, girls are weak is what they say. A stereotype (girls are weak and cry) is wrapped within a taboo (brave men don’t cry). These are the family members who again hypocritically complain about their sons being quiet and ignorant towards the family. When you restrict a person from sharing his/her/their feelings openly then how could you boast of knowing your child inside–out. Men are humans too. They’ve got every right to express their feelings. The society cannot ask a specific gender to work according to their expectations by comparing and criticizing the other gender. Showing your love as a family or friend or society doesn’t mean criticizing someone for the way they feel. Expressing your love means to understand your closed ones and assure them of your support or make them understand in a way you feel would be better for your loved ones. There is a difference in the way you portray things. ‘Brave men don’t cry’ is different from ‘it is okay to cry but you are brave, you can overcome this!’

Next comes the act of selling pads in a wrapped polythene or newspaper. It is not a crime to sell pads in a polythene bag but the way it is portrayed makes the

female gender feel embarrassed about it. First of all, periods are considered impure and many households still restrict their women from talking about period cramps and going to kitchen etc. These actions have made ‘periods’ a big deal. It definitely is a big deal for the ones who go through it and not for the ones who watch those who go through it. Even today, my mother asks me to hide the pads I’ve purchased from the supermarket, I’m asked to hide it inside a cupboard before any male member of the family notices it. As a child, these actions had made me feel embarrassed about my periods but not anymore. Periods are not something girls asked their fairy godmother for. Periods are natural. To sell products related to periods and to talk openly about periods is the new normal people are still trying to work on and I’m glad that many people have already initiated the step to achieve the goal to make the world believe that ‘periods are natural and completely normal.’

In a country where marriages are considered sacred, divorce is a taboo and more like a shameful act. No matter how much the wife bears the male abuse, no matter how much the husband bears the mental torture, no matter how much the couple struggles to make the ‘not made for each other’ relationship, no matter how much the children’s mental health is being affected due to the regular toxic fights of their parents; the couple shouldn’t think of filing a divorce otherwise the only respect of the society the family holds will be dashed to dirt. No one dreams of getting divorced but if a relationship isn’t working even after all the compromises, even after all the adjustments, even after all the tolerance then, living a life like a dead soul doesn’t make sense. Divorced women are looked down by society. Even in the world of today where a widow remarriage is being considered, a divorcee remarriage is a shameful act. Society comments like – ‘she couldn’t adjust there, she’ll not adjust anywhere; he couldn’t bear her, he cannot bear anyone.’ Well, dear society if you didn’t experience even an ounce of what they’ve been feeling as a couple then who are you to comment on the character of a human being? If you don’t pay their bills, if you are not their family, if you are not any certified marriage counsellor or lawyer then what gives you the right to be an obstacle in their lives? Divorce is not something to be proud of or to be ashamed of. But, if someone takes a decision to get divorced then, as a family we should feel empathetic towards them and advise them by considering ourselves in their places. Parents are being supportive towards divorce but there are small villages and towns where men and women both tolerate more than their capacity just because their families advise them to do so.

You might’ve heard the saying – ‘a child’s birth would help their relationship as a husband and wife work’ but no! If the couple feels like their marriage isn’t working, then how can a child make the relationship work? The child grows, becomes an adult, marries and gets busy with their own life but the couple stays. The couple should be the one to figure out solution and not the child. Also, toxic marriages affect the child adversely. No matter how much you fulfil the needs of your child, if you guys as a couple aren’t happy then your child will always be tensed about it and this affects every activity in their life including their behaviour. To end a sacred thing called ‘marriage’ isn’t easy. Adjustments are necessary for a couple to understand each other. But, expressing love, making compromises and adjustments shouldn’t be one - sided.

Now comes the clothing and dressing part. All the genders have the right to dress as they like. These are stereotypes which make a specific dress – a dress for women and a specific dress – a dress for men. Same goes with makeup, lip balm, eye liner, kajal etc. If people feel good and comfortable in how they dress and what they wear, then we should not criticize them based on our opinion. Because opinions differ from one person to another. If you’re not being commented on wearing a saree, then you shouldn’t comment on any other gender wearing a saree. If you’re not being commented on wearing a suit, then you shouldn’t comment on any other gender wearing a suit.

There are many other taboos which I missed upon but this article isn’t just about different taboos we fail to notice but it is about understanding how these taboos could deeply affect us HUMANS.

Well, we’ve come very far fighting and struggling through these taboos. Here are some examples of men and women who fought these taboos and helped India change its perspective. Qurratulain Hyder- Popularly known as Ainee Apa, Qurratulain Hyder was a short story writer, Urdu novelist, an educationist and a journalist. Born in 1927 in Aligarh, Qurratulain came from a family of writers and intellects. She was educated at Isabella Thoburn University in Lucknow. 

A highly acclaimed name in the world of literature, Qurratulain Hyder has a series of literary works to her name. In her works, she portrayed women characters as capable as men; but lacking the opportunities to excel equally. She managed to change perceptions regarding gender stereotypes through her writings. This is what defines Qurratulain Hyder as a strong feminist figure. A taboo which restricts women from talking about periods, women like Ananya and Anushree – the Maloo sisters had gathered all the courage to come on the Shark Tank India and demand equity for their male intimate hygiene products. 

Another example is of 26- year old Chitransh who is helping to make menstrual hygiene accessible to more than 148 women in rural and urban slums in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh through a pad bank which is free of cost! And there are many more real life heroes who risked everything to give their definition to a new INDIA.

Let’s fight these taboos and live life in a more practical manner. Religion is at its place but considering taboos i.e. community/society opinions and actions as unholy practices is not fair. You should be the one to figure out what is right and what is wrong. Take suggestions, research, make points, simplify your points but make sure you do what feels right to you. And, life is about taking risk and learning. So, let’s play our role in making this world a peaceful and happy place to live in.

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