Muscat: A documentary shot in India that deals with the taboos surrounding menstruation has won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject at the 2019 Academy Awards.
‘Period. End of Sentence’ was produced by Indian filmmaker Guneet Monga, in collaboration with Iranian-American Rayka Zehtabchi and producer Melissa Burton. The name of the movie carries a double meaning. ‘Period. End of Sentence’ refers to the full stop we add at the end of sentences, but in this case, signals a finality to the taboos and misconceptions surrounding periods that adolescent girls and women undergo every four weeks. This documentary saw the crew travel to Hapur village, on the outskirts of Delhi, where they fight to get a sanitary pad machine installed in their village.
The 26-minute film shows them take on prejudice and stereotypes associated with menstruation in India.
“Menstruation is a phenomenon unique to girls,” said Suneela Garg and Tanu Anand of the Department of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India.
“However, it has always been surrounded by taboos and myths that exclude women from many aspects of socio-cultural life. In India, the topic is a taboo till date. Such taboos about menstruation present in many societies impact the emotional state, mentality and lifestyle, and most importantly, the health of women and girls.”
They added, “The challenge of addressing the socio-cultural taboos and beliefs in menstruation, is further compounded by the low level of knowledge and understanding about puberty, menstruation, and reproductive health among girls. Thus, there is a need to follow a strategic approach in combating these issues.”
“Culturally, in many parts of India, menstruation is still considered to be dirty and impure,” added Garg and Anand.
“Women are prohibited from participating in normal life while menstruating. She must be ‘purified’ before she is allowed to return to her family and day-to-day chores. However, scientifically it is known that the actual cause of menstruation is ovulation followed by a missed chance of pregnancy that results in bleeding from the endometrial vessels and is followed by the preparation of the next cycle. Therefore, there seems to be no reason for this notion to persist that menstruating women are impure.”
The movie has been met with plenty of praise from both Indian and foreign actors. Priyanka Chopra-Jonas was among those who praised the film, saying, “One of the most special moments of the evening...a film based on the taboos around menstruation wins BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT! Congratulations to the entire Period. End of Sentence team, and my fearless friend Guneet Mongha.”
Reese Witherspoon added, “A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education” - best quote of the night.” Indian-American TV presenter and author Padma Lakshmi chipped in with, “So exciting that Period. End of Sentence won best documentary short! Amazing that a film about menstruation won. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to!”
The movie is run in collaboration with The Pad Project, which was created by Indian inventor and innovator Arunachalam Murganatham, called the “Pad Man” for his work in making sanitary pads affordable to families in developing countries, and the documentary actually features Muruganatham talking about the challenges women in India have to face when it comes to menstruation.
Akshay Kumar, who actually played the Pad Man in his Bollywood movie of the same name, also extended his congratulations to the winners, saying, “Congratulations to Guneet Mongha and the entire team of Period End of Sentence for winning big at the Oscars! Much needed topic of discussion and well deserved win.”