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BNU Lahore students covered campus wall with sanitary pads to protest

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Year ago, Jamia milllia Islaamia University Dehli student  covered their campus wall with sanitary pads to raise voice and awareness against rape and sexism, now  in Pakistan at Beaconhouse National University (BNU) in Lahore decided to do the same in bid to protest against the stigmatisation and sharmindagi (shame) attached to menstruation.
Students Mavera Rahim, Eman Suleman, Mehsum Basharat, Noor Fatima, Sherbaz Lehri and Asad Sheikh from the Department of Information & Technology and Liberal Arts at BNU  conducted a protest on Arpil 7 and 8 by putting 25 sanitary pads on the wall of their campus with different information and facts written on the pads.
One of the student Mavera Rahim wrote a detail post in this Facebook to elaborate the intention behind the somehow silent protest, she said, “Many people have been asking me about this protest that Eman, Mehsum, Noor Fatima, Asad, Sherbaz and I conducted in university for a class, so I thought I would put it out there so people can understand. I’m not here to argue about it, because I’ve done enough of that, but this is what happened”.
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BNU students photo
Firstly, the protest was against the stigma attached to menstruation and the sharmindagi with which wediscuss it. We are made to put pads in brown paper bags when we buy them, we are made to talk about periods in hushed voices as if it’s a dirty secret, and all in all made to act as if it is something we should hide more so than other bodily functions, when it’s really a natural part of our biology. Several women contract diseases because they are not fully informed of hygienic practices when it comes to menstruation because very few people will actually discuss it. Over centuries and across different cultures, people have approached menstruation differently, some celebrating it and some shaming menstruating women. Our idea was to break this taboo around the subject in our society.

This wall had around 25 pads with facts about periods and questions as to why we have to be ashamed of them- “why are we embarrassed of our biology?” “Menstruating regularly means I’m healthy” “don’t hide me” “my biology is not gross” “periods allow for reproduction” etc- and there was a short “performance” in which Eman and I had paint stains on our white kameezes and stood there and talked and interacted with the boys as if everything is alright, and nothing is gross, weird, or wrong.

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I appreciate people who have shown support to us in this, and for those asking what the backlash was it took form in the following arguments:
1- could you not have done this in any other way? (There are many ways to present any single point, but we chose this one because the point was to get attention to something that doesn’t normally get it)
2- There must be some reason why periods are so private, wise people in society have deemed it so, so there must be wisdom in it. (The point is to make you question societal norms. Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s ok)
3- We use tissues to masturbate. Why not start putting used tissues everywhere, and talk about it and tell people you are masturbating, and ask your sister or mother to buy you tissues in order to masturbate then. ( Although there shouldn’t be stigma about masturbation either, menstruation is nothing like masturbation, it is not inherently sexual, and it is not something we do, it is something which happens to us. I don’t think I need to elaborate any more on the logical fallacies of this argument)
4- The people that shame you for this are very few, only individuals. (Not true.)
5- Lots of people generally also just made fun of this whole thing. Thanks.
6-A guy said it’s not that big a deal, and when I said to you it’s not because you don’t experience it, his response was “so, what do you want me to do, experience it??”. No, that’s not the case. It’s not about men experiencing it. It’s not about men’s experience with menstruation. I’m not blaming men for not experiencing it, I’m saying they have to understand that they don’t get to make the same kind of judgment about it as women do because they haven’t experienced it, the same way I can’t make judgments about problems that men have that I don’t experience. It’s not about a man’s experience, and I don’t know why that offends people so much.

No, I’m not some shameless libertine, but I don’t think I should feel shame for this, even though I do feel very very embarrassed and self conscious about this whole experience.

In conclusion, I’d like to say the best male response we got to this was from Fauji Chacha, the SLASS building janitor, who, seeing that I got very self conscious because of what was going on, told me basically to relax, he has a daughter, he knows what these are, and told me I had dropped one. Bas. Itni si baat thi yaar.

Many people have been asking me about this protest that Eman, Mehsum, Noor Fatima, Asad, Sherbaz and I conducted in…

Posted by Mavera Rahim on Thursday, April 7, 2016

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