The fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has revealed an uptick in menstrual hygiene in women between 15 to 24 years of age in 2019-20, compared to the fourth survey which took place in 2015-16. Among the southern states, the indicator increased in all states save for Tamil Nadu, the data for which has not been made available in Phase-1 of NFHS-5. Andhra Pradesh saw the highest jump wherein 85% women in the said age group were using hygienic methods during menstruation compared to 67% in NFHS-4.
Telangana saw an increase from 76.6% to 92.1%, Karnataka from 70.3% to 84.2%, and Kerala from 90% to 93%. States which had performed comparatively worse on this indicator in 2015-16 like Bihar (31%), Tripura (43.5%) and Assam (44.8%) also saw an increase to 58.8%, 68.8% and 66.3% respectively in NFHS-5.
West Bengal saw one of the highest jumps in this area with 83% women between 15 and 24 using hygienic methods for protection during menstruation in 2019-20, from 54.9% in the previous survey. Mizoram, meanwhile, saw a dip in women who were using healthy menstrual hygiene practices – from 93.4% in NFHS-4, the proportion dipped to 89.8% women in NFHS-5.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands had the highest percentage of women using safe methods during their periods, at 98.9%, followed by Lakshadweep at 98.3%.
In the last few years, there has been an uptick in the focus on menstrual hygiene and health, including sustainable menstrual products like menstrual cups, cloth pads, eco-friendly pads and so on. According to a survey released on World Menstrual Hygiene Day which collected a total over 11,161 responses (in Hindi and English), almost 71% agreed to using non-biodegradable sanitary napkins and almost 63% recognised that it is harmful for the environment. However, affordability and the issue of trust remained barriers among menstruators making a clear switch to biodegradable alternatives. The survey was done by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with Water, Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
The survey also found that 41% people were in favour of introducing a Bill in the Parliament around menstrual leave. However, the survey also found that cultural taboos and feelings of shame and negativity continue to persist around periods, wherein over 80% of the respondents reported experiencing some form of negative emotion such as fear, anxiety during their first period.
(With IANS inputs)