‘The time of the month’ in the Hindu Culture

‘I’m on my period so will I still be able to attend ?’ is a common question amongst Asian women. In the Indian culture it is forbidden to go into a temple and pray to God, touch any religious shrine or holy book when you are on your period. How can a natural biological function cause such a division within the Hindu culture and cause women to feel alienated when it comes to a religious function or entering a temple?

I myself have felt alienated when I am on my period as I am forbidden to go near God or the temple or attend any religious function. We need to be able to speak openly about periods rather than shy away from it. Many times I have spoken openly about periods with men and their response is either ‘errr’ or ‘we don’t need to know that.’ Well I believe it’s fundamental that men become open to talking about periods and reducing the stigma because lets be honest – without periods men would not exist and procreation would not exist. Simple as.

‘There are many restrictions placed on females in Asian countries when they’re menstruating:

29% of girls in Afghanistan do not attend school.

28% of girls in Nepal have to sleep separately from other members of their family.

98% of girls in India (Gujurat) do not shower.

10% in Nepal, 70% in Afghanistan and 33% in Iran are not allowed to participate in sports activities.’

This shows that the stigma of periods prevents girls from participating in activities at school as well as at home. This may also indirectly cause males to question this divide and think that is the way it is meant to be so they just carry on with the divide with no valid reason.

Another demeaning situation occurred at a hostel in Bhuj, Gujarat where ‘college students were made to show their underwear to female teachers to prove that they were not menstruating. The college principal was informed by a hostel official that some students were breaking rules. These rules included that women were not allowed to enter the temple and kitchen or touch other students during their periods. Also at meal times they have to sit away from others and sit on the last bench in the classroom. The hostel also has a register where girls have to write their names when they’re on their period.’ This is all so inhumane, disrespectful and outright humiliating. Unsurprisingly the college students also stated it was like ‘mental torture.’ Whilst going through the physical pain of periods these women had to go through the mental torture of being treated with no dignity.

So why is a natural biological function of menstruation seen as impure ? There’s countless situations around the world which shows that there’s a lack of education and knowledge around menstruation. Many women in India don’t even have access to sanitary towels and are not aware of such products. This was depicted in the Netflix Documentary ‘Period. End of sentence.’ In this a woman explains how she has to stop going to college and classes due to being incapable of managing her periods as she did not have access to period pads but only a cloth which caused her to leave class every so often. Women were also shown pads for the first time. The documentary also shows that some women are embarrassed to speak about periods infront of men and when men were asked about what a period is some were unaware of it and some thought menstruation was an illness. This confirms how men shy away from this conversation and get embarrassed due to the lack of knowledge, education and awareness of periods.

We see that the lack of knowledge also seeps into culture where we follow ‘rules’ blindly which has been passed on from ancient generations but no one knows where it comes from or what source it comes from. As when I challenge peoples views and ask them what is their source or where does this notion of periods come from they simply do not have a clear answer as the division has just been passed down from ancestors.

So let’s put the stigma around periods in the trash can and lets speak up, lets educate ignorant people and lets hope God answers our prayers even when we’re on our period!

bibliography

https://sswm.info/humanitarian-crises/camps/hygiene-promotion-community-mobilisation/hygiene-promotion-community/menstrual-hygiene-management

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-51504992

Netflix documentary – Period. End of sentence.

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