Breaking the period taboo

April 9, 2019
3 min read

An Indian documentary titled, “Period. End of Sentence”, won the Oscar for best ‘Documentary Short Subject’ in 2019. The story revolves around a rural village outside Delhi, India, where women lead a quiet revolution to fight against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation.

For generations, these women didn’t have access to pads, which led to health problems and girls missing school or dropping out entirely. But when a sanitary pad machine is installed in the village, the women are empowered to learn how to manufacture and market pads under the brand name Fly.

The social stigma

Menstruation is considered to be taboo in India and is a subject that is not discussed openly, especially in rural communities. In India, only a fraction of women use commercial sanitary protection products, with cost being a key barrier. More importantly, there are still strong social and religious stigmas surrounding menstruation which further fuels this access gap.

Today, due to various government initiatives and awareness programmes, women are beginning to feel more empowered than ever before. Positive steps have also been taken by Indian companies to introduce initiatives like ‘menstrual leave’, which not only helps to retain female talent, but to overcome the stigmas that exist within society.

Mintel Trend ‘Open Diary’ explores how consumers are now more comfortable making private matters public. Today, there is less of a need to hide behind euphemisms; honest and sincere dialogue is far more likely to connect with consumers. Hence, once-taboo topics get demystified, and consumers who had once been hesitant to discuss them may now provide an open-minded market.

Breaking barriers with social media

Social media efforts have helped women in India step up to discuss and better understand issues related to their health and wellness. An increasing number of women are now able to demand sanitary protection and society is slowly learning to accept menstruation as a normal body function and not a taboo topic.

Social media campaigns in India, like #TouchThePickle, #LahuKaLagaan and #WhispersBreakSilence, have led to a revolution in the way women approach this topic. Furthermore, a series of ads and messages on TV, radio and across online platforms have given further impetus to this category.


Social media campaigns and activism have led to this taboo topic, which was not even talked about within families, being discussed in the open on social media platforms.

Globally too, social media has proven to be an effective medium to help women come forward to discuss and understand issues related to their health and wellness. In Brazil, Sempre Livre’s latest campaign features open discussions around menstruation through Facebook Live. In Mexico, Saba, a feminine hygiene brand from SCA Hygiene, used its social media platforms to ask consumers about the most common myths associated with periods. The brand used these consumer insights to create two playful ads inspired by those myths.

Leveraging digital prowess for customised marketing and communication will be important for brands in India to reach their target audience and drive usage of feminine care products.

Rimpie Panjwani
Rimpie Panjwani

Rimpie is Mintel’s Senior Beauty Analyst based in Mumbai. She specialises in analysing and providing insights on India’s beauty and personal care market and consumer trends.

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