Documentary on Menstruation Wins Academy Award

Edited by Tasmiyah Randeree

Recently winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, the Netflix documentary Period. End of Sentence. directly addresses the stigma associated with menstruation in rural India. 

In this context, menstruation  is seen as a problem, an illness, something to be avoided and not talked about at all costs. As such, the documentary highlights the lack of awareness associated with this issue. 

During menstruation, women are forbidden to enter temples, they are denied the opportunity to go to school and they do not have access to basic sanitary products. Since it is seen as such a taboo subject, women are forced to use fabric that is likely unsanitary for their needs and also unable to sustain the blood flow. Its an unhygienic and inefficient way of dealing with menstruation. Its also alarming that nearly one third of Indian girls miss school during their periods. Their are various reasons for this including the fact that they are seen as religiously impure and so they are confined to a space but also practically, they are unable to leave school to change their piece of fabric when it stops serving its purpose. In the end, many woman remain at home because its simply easier. 

The act of purchasing sanitary products is also seen as something that should be hidden, reflecting the negative cultural attitudes towards menstruation in rural India. In response to this, the documentary shows how the women in a particular village in India begin to produce their own feminine hygiene products locally for their livelihood. It also gives them an opportunity to talk about menstruation to groups of women in the hope that they can change the way periods are seen by communities as a whole and not just women. Thus, as the documentary suggests, women should recognize their power and should not be limited by societal prejudices. 

Rayka Zehtabchi, the 25-year-old Iranian-American director of the film, has stated,“There are millions of stories about menstruation, and I just think that we need to hear women's voices and we need to learn about their experiences. That's the only way we're going to get rid of this taboo worldwide.” 

At the very least, this documentary is starting a conversation about a subject that needs to be discussed. For more information and to support the initiative discussed in the film, visit www.thepadproject.org.