Menstrual Taboos That Still Haunt Indian Women

  • Break the “whisper “and call for a “silence “on the natural “cycle”

Lata Jain

All the girls went on a school excursion. Getting one’s period was frightening and no one was particularly excited about this coming of age rite. To make us feel more comfortable, the teachers asked us to inform them if we got our periods and reassured us that we’d be taken care of.

My friend Anitha started bleeding. It wasn’t her first time, but we both went and informed the teacher. She had carried the necessary paraphernalia.

We were on a south India trip and landed near the famous temple in Chennai. Anitha and I went inside the temple and were amazed seeing the golden temple. One of the teachers pulled Anitha aside and asked if she had periods. She nodded her head in affirmation. Her expression changed instantly and in a terrifying, angry voice, she told her this:

How did you go inside the temple then? Don’t you know you’re not supposed to? Hasn’t your mother told you that you can’t step inside a temple when you have your period? Call your mother tomorrow; I want to meet her!”

Anitha thought she made the largest blunder of her life. She was mortified. She apologized and got onto the bus, she spent the entire ride home nearly in tears.

In my friend’s family, when women have their period, they don’t enter the kitchen. They’re not allowed to cook. I know a family who doesn’t allow their maid to enter their house when it’s her time of the month.

Indian women is still haunted by this problem in their homes, community. Women today feel ‘whispering’ leads to many forms of gender stereotyping. “These silences lead to other kinds of silence where women don’t talk about sexual harassment, sex crimes, etc. We want to talk about it in terms of health care, sanitation and accessibility of cheaper resources for the underprivileged section of population.” In fact the most frequent acknowledgement of women’s sexuality comes forth but as harassment and abuse, on the streets or in the home. With repression also comes the violence.

This blood that has been marked ‘impure’, marked ‘dirty’, marked ‘shameful’, has brought many of us much pain and here we are not talking just about menstrual cramps say Deepti from the Delhi university .They were taking a rally with stain marks on their clothes to express and explain the sensitivity of the issue.

Women must guard the reality of their sexual bodies as they must guard their ‘honor’, which then becomes something to trade in the market of ‘reasonable’ and ‘forced” marriages. Indeed, the whole ‘stable’ structures of society stands heavy on the walls that imprison the woman’s womb and by implication most aspects of her life. So why shy away when the womb/wound bleeds?

Only about 12 percent of women in India use a sanitary pad, while women in rural India make do with cloth pieces, leaves and cow dung. Many students across the country demanded that the government take menstruation under a universal health care system for all women, especially those from the vulnerable section of population. They have also demanded for the installation of vending machines for sanitary pads in the university campus.

The violence and discrimination of being given sanitary napkins at the medical store wrapped in newspaper or black polythene bags; having the photo of a woman with stained pants barred from social media being told to not enter certain spaces like kitchens and places of worship during ‘those days’; of people not being adequately informed about safe-sex practices or methods of contraception; of no institution acknowledging the actual physical pain and discomfort of menstruating.

It is shameful to mention that women athletes are being forced to take pills to delay their periods in order to compete with ‘normal’ bodies; of women and young girls being forcefully married away into a life of ‘legitimate’ sex, which in many cases only really translates into legitimized rape in their experience.

The stigma around menstrual blood reveals the love hate relationship that this society has with women’s bodies and their sexuality. God loves all his children: rich or poor, man or woman, menstruating or not.

Women bleed. Accept it .deal with it. Shun that taboo.

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