Natural bodily functions are often under attack by men. Menstruation (as natural as any other process humans possess), is often under harsh criticism in religious and public institutions. Religions present women in myriads of ways, yet women in the religious perspective and media eye continue to be poorly depicted. In India, Hindu women protest the restrictions placed upon them during their menstrual cycle.
Arguably, the notion of menstruating being unclean and offensive, may have religious roots. In religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism a woman’s period has religious connections, often with negative backgrounds. In Christianity, periods are seen as part of the curse package Eve received after eating the forbidden fruit which limited women in their ability to worship during this time similar to the restrictions in Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. Although, now these rules have been bent and refined, in some instances, they are strictly enforced.
In India’s large Hindu population, women are barred from entering temples during their period. Originally, in the Hindu myth, women began menstruating because of the sin of a God named Indra, the punishment was to distribute the sin resulting in the menstrual cycle of women. In a recent event, a few women conducted a puja in a Maharashtra temple despite understanding that women were not permitted to do so. The idol was “purified” by a priest after the incident. The idol purification and belief in the “impurity” of women is a conventional practice and ideology in India.
“Menstruation stigma is a form of misogyny,” as Erika L. Sánchez titles her article on the discrimination and shame women are forced to feel during their period. Adding upon the reasons why women are discriminated against, the period is depicted in the most astute manner possible. When in fact most, if not all females have been through menstruation. However, in today’s perspective it’s shameful, impure and should be hidden in secrecy, and if spoken about or seen, women are vulnerable to bullying and shaming.
One young woman took a stance against the stigma women face when mentrsuating. As a result of a remark by a temple leader who suggested for a machine to check if women were menstruating, Nikita Azad responds with a vehement response, questioning his position on the issue, and even thanking him for his remark for shedding light upon the issues concerning Indian women. Nikita writes,
In the end, I would like to thank you. I thank you for giving women an opportunity to get rid of the utopian-liberal discourse of freedom, and rethink their position in society. Also, I thank you because your statement will not install purity checking machines, rather let women put a fight against such retrogressive, barbaric, and misogynist customs.
Her letter sparked the trend #HappytoBleed on social media as well.
Although the popular attitude of menstruation consists of negativity and disgust, women are more open about menstruating. It is certainly time to remove this mindset of the period being impure, and replace it with positivity and understanding. In the religious sphere, menstruation is a tricky subject, but with enough exposure and support, the period will receive a different connotation.
[Image Attribute:Anant Rohankar]