International menstrual hygiene day will be celebrated on Sunday, May 28, but many of us are not aware about a custom which is being practised in rural areas of Maharashtra, where women leave their houses and stay in a menstrual hut. This custom has been practised since ancient times. But, the important question remains unanswered. What about their hygiene?
Vishakha Katole who is working as a Coordinator of Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Programme) ARSH in Gadchiroli district gave glimpses of the ground reality. “Kurma custom is gradually disappearing in relatively urban part of the district but in interior parts it followed with its stringent rules. Most of the women don’t know how to maintain hygiene during those days. They also do not have proper means available to take care of it. It causes lots of health hazards to women. They face reproductive tract infections (RTI’s). We mostly receive complaints of excessive white discharge.”
Though main reason behind these health hazards is lack of awareness, the circumstantial factors while living Kurma also contribute to it. Most of the ‘Kurmas’ are not in habitable condition. There is no supply of water and electricity in the huts. Women are dependable on their family members to get waters as they cannot touch public water source during menstruation. Most of the huts do not have washrooms. Women face problems in washing their cloth pads properly.
In the rainy season a problem regarding properly drying the pads arises. Most importantly, they are not allowed to carry these cloth pads home once their stay in ‘Kurma’ in a month is over. Pads are kept in ‘Kurma’ either in polythene or rug bag. Sometimes fungus develops on it.
Sometimes more than two women cohabit simultaneously in Kurma. Adolescent girls also have to follow the custom but because of the education adolescents are becoming more aware about the hygiene. Vaishali Karati who is a ZP Teacher in Jamdi village of Gadchiroli district said, “Few years ago, women rarely used detergent or soap to wash cloth pads. Now the level awareness is rising. At school we talk to girls about how to be hygienic during those days. They are slowly imbibing it. We also teach them how to use sanitary pads.”
Kurma custom originates from the belief that menstruation is impure. The custom is continuing from generation to generation. Women also have accepted the norms of it. All they want is improvement in the habitable condition in Kurma. “To prevent health hazards on women we have proposed to build a room with facilities like water and electric supply. To raise they widespread awareness government, NGOs, opinion makers and educated tribal population needs to come together.” said Anil Rude who is Additional Civil Surgeon, Gadchiroli.