This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Annie Fraser. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Let’s Talk About Periods, For We Can Not Talk About Women Empowerment Without That!

More from Annie Fraser

By Annie Fraser:

I arrived in India in January 2013, not long after news of the December 2012 Delhi gang rape was making headlines. Friends and family vociferously spoke out against my coming to India. Don’t travel alone, women are not seen as equals there, people told me. They cited examples of rape, eve teasing, child marriage, female infanticide, and more to support their idea that women were second-class citizens in India.

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I did realize that many of their thoughts about women in India were misconceptions based on inflamed descriptions of events that had been spoon-fed to them by popular media, and for this reason, I took their opinions in stride. I had always heard of India being a country with potential; a country where rural villages meet urban cities, where aged agricultural dominance is being overtaken by rapidly growing IT and engineering sectors, and where unyielding, narrow-minded values are being pushed aside by progressiveness and social liberation. And so, while I was surrounded by overwhelming negativity, I kept an open mind and remained positive about the future, both for India and myself.

After coming to India, I was surprised to see the wave of public outcries and activism that was unleashed throughout the country. From personally witnessing city-wide candlelight vigils and marches in remembrance of the gang rape victim, and massive rallies and protests against all forms of women oppression, I was proud of India and the direction in which it was moving. Sure, a great deal of progress still needed to be made, but the fight for women empowerment in India was on its way.

Recently, though, I experienced something that was far off my radar, and therefore unexpected, but shocked me equally as hard as those other stories of rapes and foeticide. One day, I went to my friend’s house for pooja. After entering my friend’s house, I noticed my friend’s sister sitting alone in her room. I did not think much of it at first, but when she continued to stay in her room alone throughout the pooja ceremony, the subsequent meal, and the remainder of the afternoon and evening, I grew curious and suspicious. Eventually, I was able to muster the courage to ask my friend about why her sister had not participated in the activities with the family for the entire afternoon and evening. “She’s on her period”, my friend said, “and it’s unhealthy for her to interact with us”.

Unhealthy? My friend’s words lay a heavy blow on my conscience. I looked back to my friend’s sister and observed her sitting alone in the corner of her room, not speaking with or touching anybody. I could not help but feel bad for her. There she was, sitting in complete isolation, because of a monthly biological process over which she has no control.

Periods are not unhealthy. What’s unhealthy is raising girls to believe that their body is a curse. What’s unhealthy is associating the female reproductive system with toxicity and poison. What’s unhealthy is ignoring the prejudice and fear of menstruation from the discussion of women empowerment in India. Let’s talk about periods. Let’s think of periods as a method of cleansing rather than of soiling. Let’s talk about how periods are healthy, not unhealthy. Let’s talk about how periods mean that a woman’s body is ready to give the most beautiful gift in the world, the gift of life.

If we are as passionate about women empowerment as we say we are, then we need to open our eyes. We do still need to fight against prominent threats to women, such as rapes and foeticide, but we also need to realize that some of the biggest battles lie inside our own homes.

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  1. Archana

    I have always wished that people open their eyes when it comes to periods and not term it as “unhealthy”. I know of an organization called Menstrupedia which educates girls about periods and scraps the misconceptions and meaningless customs being followed in Indian culture.

  2. anwesha sen majumdar

    Its actually pretty shameless when girls follow this rule , without rhyme or reason .. thats a huge problem with Indians , we follow everything blindly.. no wonder Asaram is a crorepati…

  3. anuradha

    I knw hw it feels whn…bcoz of periods…i was told not to touch anybody..nd if u toch…then they will become impure…its d worst feeling in d world nd i felt so…helpless..

  4. Saloni

    This is a deplorable situation which has been existing in our society since time immemorial and unfortunately this has been a customary rule for the females to be isolated in “those days”,not to enter the kitchen or temple. What is saddening is that there are large number of females who don’t actually fight against this. It’s us who have to learn to say know to such attitude.

  5. rajkanyadm

    India is and has been shackled by absolutely ridiculous customs, traditions and beliefs and yes, menstruation seems to be a very integral part of all the demeaning that women are subjected to on a daily basis in this country of a billion plus (and always counting).
    The article is short and crisp and you do a great job with the ending. The definitions of what is healthy or unhealthy, moral or immoral or just right or wrong will always have too many connotations to comprehend in this country, we could just leave it to rot or keep using them to further the apathy that the society has towards us.

  6. Nitin

    wait what, is it over. Didn’t you say anything against this ostracism, instead of writing an article only to be read by a bunch of people.

    1. Annie Fraser

      Nitin:

      Of course I spoke out about it. But I also felt compelled to write an article about it and share it because I felt that this topic is not discussed enough, but it is crucial that it not be ignored.

  7. Nanditha

    The reason behind girls being asked to stay back during their period was keeping in mind the intense pain and related symptoms that came with the days.However, the idea of preserving their health has taken completely different proportions. It has made people think that girls are ‘impure’ and hence must stay away during such festivities. In a majority of households across India, girls are confined to the walls of a room during these days.

    1. megabookfreak

      ditto. As with dowry, this custom too was started with good intent. From what I know, cooking the past was difficult work and you would have to carry large pots and pans and do arduous work and so not doing anything during your period was for your own good. NOW I think it’s been manipulated into something totally different. It is a derogatory practice now that tells women that there is something innately wrong with them and that they should be ashamed of themselves. So ridiculous.

      My mom tries to get me to follow this practice but I refuse because there is actually no sense in it at all (at least the way it is practiced today)

  8. Vidyut

    A few bolder women need to give ultimatums to religious leaders. Declare us acceptable as we are throughout the month or we boycott your Gods. My in-laws are particularly orthodox on this. I was expected to sit aside 4 days of the month, every month. I was blunt. Do not ask when my period is, if you aren’t prepared to deal with the answer. My behavior will not change for it. Their temple will not accept women on their period. So I never go there. Period.

    Enough women do this, and the paranoia of Hindu women leaving Hinduism will FORCE change. That is one thing these jokers understand.

    High time women started negotiating their place in the scheme of things instead of slotting neatly into undignified slots painted by those who see them as inferior. Accept us as equals, or we figure out our own belief system excluding you.

    1. Aravind

      I hope Hinduism will not compromise on their integrity or their beliefs just to remain popular with some women. If so, then it is no longer Hinduism. Truth I hope matters more than popularity.

    2. adya00

      Good lord! What integrity?

  9. LawrenceBandra

    High time educated women stood up for their rights. Admire Vidyut’s approach “Do not ask when my period is, if you aren’t prepared to deal with the answer. My behavior will not change for it. Their temple will not accept women on their period. So I never go there. Period.”:If the custom began with the idea to care for women during menstruation it certainly is not the case now. Women need to find ways to claim their power back with the will I am sure they will find a way.

  10. Sandipan

    I do agree it is very depressing and humiliating for a girl not being allowed to touch anybody or “interact” as highlighted here for having going through her menstrual cycle.But I also believe that a little bit of misinterpretation and negative point of view is being depicted here. Where one may interpret it as an oppression against women it may also be interpreted as a general notion of keeping girls away from any sort of disturbance or physical activity during the periods because they have to bear immense pain. Also being a citizen of a religious,country we take all measures of purity during our Puja proceedings. Just as we do not touch or interact with others involved in the Puja without having a proper shower,girls going through the menstrual cycles might be deprived of interacting with them for the same reason.Everybody has right to make their statements but blowing things out of proportion sometimes may result in unnecessary dispute amongst people.

    1. adya00

      What has taking a proper shower got to do with periods?

    2. Annie Fraser

      While I understand your points, I have to disagree. The notion of keeping girls away from activities because they have to bear “immense pain” is generalized. The reality is that each girl’s period is different. Many girls do experience a lot of pain and fatigue during their periods, which makes normal activities more difficult. However, many girls spend their entire lives experiencing no pain or discomfort during their periods whatsoever. Therefore, does it not make sense for the girl to decide which activities she feels well and strong enough to partake in? Adults, when they are ill, make those decisions all the time. Surely, women have the same body consciousness to make decisions for what all she can do while she’s on her period. If we look at this argument from a religious standpoint, I understand the importance of purity and cleanliness in certain religious ceremonies. I will also preface by thoughts by saying that I am no expert on the Hindu religion However, I have to agree with Adya…what does taking a shower have to do with periods? In other words, what does cleanliness have to do with periods? In my opinion, it’s never OK to ostracize a woman, at any point in time, whether it be outside or inside the spectrum of religion. For gender-specific isolation (AKA women being limited during their periods) insinuates gender inequality, in the end.

      Lastly, my intention for writing this article was not to “blow things out of proportion” but rather, to shed light on a topic that does not seem to receive much attention. I welcome your opinions, and I realize that there are probably many facets to this argument that I have not touched on. And it’s very important that you argue my points! Because real thinking is only done from several perspectives.

    3. Ritu

      This issue is deep-rooted to the extent that when i talk about this to my friend(s) who are highly educated and hail from well to do families, they respond very matter factly: ‘Yes! Thats how it is actually! Aisa hi hai’. They firmly believe in this practice. On top of it, in many households in India, it is a practice to make girls wear sari’s and have a ‘get-together’ to ‘celebrate’ their girls’ womanhood, when they have their first period. I ask, what is this need to announce to the world that ‘Hey, the girl is now in her period. She has begun menstruating.’ … and therefore she is now a ‘celebrated’ woman! Hardly, i’d say, given an woman’s oppressed state and poor treatment in today’s society.

    4. purushottam

      I appreciate your last paragraph in the comment and hope your intents are honestly “women empowerment” but allowing them to go to temple during menses is just mindless rebellion to me, Indian society is surely among the top discriminating at present, needs to be corrected regardless of other cultures but doesnt mean indian culture and all of its rituals are discriminating.
      Why is wimbledon prize money diff for men n women? i feel nobody empowers nobody, ultimately its all up to an individual to uplift his own life be it man or woman. in usa there is no woman president as yet where as countries like bangladesh/india/pak have seen woman pm/president what big deal? for physical world these symbolic things do not matter much there is always going to be discrimination if not gross, subtle and more fierce.1)increase seekers/make people truly scientific with pure knowledge/education 2)basic equality as to opportunities/career/health/wealth can be achieved through pure education & implementation of law but broadly again unless we get hold of our individual nuances and understanding of the self we cannot do much for others.

    5. Prashant Ghoshal

      Umm, Why didn’t anyone actually notice/contradict/comment on what Annie is trying to say? Let me re-quote ” Let’s think of periods as a method of cleansing rather than of soiling.” Now clearly, no one here knows why exactly girls are banned from religious activities during her periods. India doesn’t have only Hindu religion. (BTW even muslim girls are not allowed to read namaaz during their menstrual cycle) Other than that I’ve seen ‘brahmins’ and other few sects practicing this.

      On the flip side, many caste in hinduism see a girl in periods as powerful being (mythologically) A young (virgin in period) is worshiped and seen as ‘Sati’. Also in Sikhism there is no law which prohibits women from practicing any religious activities during that time. Guru Nanak has clearly mentioned that “Women’s blood is necessary for formation of life” & “Menstrual cycle is god given process”.

      Now if you would call women’s blood impure … would you dare to challenge god’s creation without any proper proof or by knowing the fact that all the scriptures be it the bible/quran/vedas are actually subject to how it was interpreted?

      Now ya’all look into yourself and think is your soul (precisely for which you go to temple/mosque/church) is purer than menstrual blood? Are your sins, thoughts, deeds dirtier than a girl in menstrual cycle? I think if god can digest all your sins then he must have stomach for a bit of so called “impure blood” 🙂

    6. Anonymous

      Well said! About our ‘dirty’ deeds/thoughts especially 🙂

      Just one thing – ‘cleansing’ may not be the right word here. Raises the cynical interpretation – so some darkness is being cleansed. where there is no ‘darkness’ or ‘dirt’ to be cleansed.
      Its beautiful. Its definitely a marvelously beautiful process, making the female body ready to ‘make’ a new human life, a bundle of joy.

    7. adya00

      I don’t think trying to fight for the right to not be considered unclean/unholy/dirty etc is mindless rebellion.

    8. Shivam

      Annie I pretty much liked your point of view because once my grandfather told me ancient methods and rituals of Hindu religion which are mentioned in Holy books are based on certain logical reason and scientific facts. But what has happened, that over the years these methodology have become strict rules and facts that one has to follow without knowing why that law was made and then things started to change and now most people don’t know why they follow the things but they blindly follow in the name of god and thus making the environment of the society negative. So I would say if you follow a rule then there should a reason behind following that rule otherwise that law is nothing but just a mere piece of crap. And in this case biological reason is to provide rest to females during there biological cycle so that they do not suffer pain and other consequences but this logical reason changed into law without knowing why this rule was made.
      This is completely my view-point. For any reason I am not trying to say anything against any religious sentiments.

  11. bhaskarjyoti das

    i really appretiate u………hats off…..if 2dy we dnt join hands den 2mrow our nxt generation will suffer…frm all those prblms happening to a girl…bcz later on dey become a mother..a wife..a sistr..a best frn…a lyf prtnr…so just respect d girls……….

  12. Bhaskar Jha

    Really appreciating !!
    Every one should come out from these traditional thinking and treat women as on the equal side …hats off!

  13. miki

    I have never been asked to sit aside alone in a room during my periods or whatever rules are set for girls during that time as my family is broad-minded when it comes to these things. I think you are just blowing this thing out of proportion. When I am on my periods, I don’t attend the poojas or enter a temple as I feel uncomfortable in those times.. (not impure though!). Normally girls keep themselves away or are kept away from the religious place so as not to mess around wherever they sit and its a tradition that has been followed for ages as a temple or a religious place should be kept clean. Every religion has their own rules, it doesn’t mean women are oppressed as they form an integral part during these religious ceremonies. I may offend many liberal minded people here or maybe blamed but I don’t feel comfortable visiting any religious sites during the mensuration time.

    1. adya00

      What do you mean by kept clean. Are you saying that a man or even a woman who gets hurt in temple premises will treated the same way a woman is?
      This system wasn’t started as a form of oppression, but it has definitely become one. What right, does anyone have to tell me that I can’t visit a temple at any point?

    2. Aravind

      in such a case, you may be polluting temples which have years of faith for your ego……it seems you are traditional enough to believe in temples, but modern enough to go in menes and pollute it as per beliefs……..we believe in things as per our convenience

    3. adya00

      its about being traditional enough to go anywhere. Its about the double standards of purity. Why is a woman considered unclean during her menses? Why is that blood unclean? The same blood gives life and is harvested even today for stem cells.
      And who decided who can go to temples?

    4. Santhosh

      Adya the same blood and egg carried by a women gives life and during the period the egg dies and excreted by the body. So this sequence according to hinduism is called theetu ( Tamil word). So if any one dies we dont visit temples. The same is used during this period time. If you dont like these rituals you can go head with your western way of life and hinduism does not stop anyone.

    5. adya00

      Have you even read a single religious text? You will realise there are tons of contradictory things. What will you believe then?
      More importantly, is it not necessary to evolve with time?

    6. Ritu

      @Aravind,

      Next time when you refer to a woman’s menses, think of it as a process of preparation of the insides of her body, for it to be able to instill life into a fertilized egg and nurture it, till it becomes a tiny human being, ready to come into the world.

      No part of a woman’s menstrual cycle is ‘polluting’ anything, anyone, or anyplace.

      So lets talk about periods per se: i suppose it will be useful to put together some v. common facts (already mentioned in different comments and the article itself), for some of the uninitiated readers of this article:
      1. It is not blue. It is Blood Red, Cherry red. Plum red. Deep red.

      2. Degree of pain during periods varies among different girls/women. Also the degree of pain may even differ from time to time for the same girl/woman.

      3. It is part of the natural process to prepare the lining of the womb for nurturing a fertilized egg. Since an egg is released every month and (Therefore) there is a chance of ovulation everytime, this process repeats every month.

      4. A lot happens inside the body between periods. Its as similar a system as the systems of digestion, respiration, immune…

      It has nothing to do with tradition, religion, faith, beliefs etc or any abstractions of the human mind.

      It is a purely scientific system in the functioning of the human body and, i’d say, humanity. And if you call the Human Body a marvelous creation of God, well periods are a very integral part of the same marvelous creation.

      Some amazing content related to periods:
      1. When a man wore a pad! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rd8TkzhDfw
      2. In Humor – Women dont bleed blue! http://www.openthemagazine.com/…/women-don-t-bleed-blue

    7. DDD

      Its up to u, don’t let others know that you r in cycle , why do u people make a fuss , whenever we have a night fall we don’t even look at the temple cuz we know we have become impure n we can’t remember god with impure thought !

    8. adya00

      “whenever we have a night fall we don’t even look at the temple cuz we know we have become impure n we can’t remember god with impure thought !”
      What exactly is this supposed to mean?

    9. adya00

      Pls explain ‘mess around’ .

  14. Rita Banerji

    Annie — The phrase usually used to bar menstruating girls or women from places is not “unhealthy” but “un-clean.” She cannot enter the kitchen or temple because she is “unclean” or “dirty.” And this is actually mild. In 2010-11 there was a big case where an actress was actually charged and arrested by the police for having entered a temple more than 15 years ago while menstruating when she was a girl! see this http://genderbytes.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/is-it-a-crime-to-menstruate/ And I agree with Vidyut — we have to stop taking a passive approach to this. I’m an atheist so it doesn’t matter to me one way or another. I’m not desperate to enter any such place that bans me anyway. But to women who it does, they should organize a massive protest ban I think. A few years ago, when my American (Catholic) god-daughter was baptised I refused to go along with a ceremony that regarded her as “born in sin.” Her parents talked me into going and I finally did on my terms. I wore a flaming red sari (instead of the required ‘pure’ white) to signify menstrual blood while I held her. I envision Indian women with period pads or tampons pinned on their shirts and tops marching in the thousands into these temples 🙂

    But the other thing I want to say is that these customs are connected with systemic violence on women in India. I know you mean well but it really does not help when western women downplay the scale of violence on women and girls in India. It is the 4th most dangerous country after Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan and not without reason. In 20 years 20% of women will have been exterminated from India and this is not true even for the top 3 violent countries. 3 more things: 1) this is not sex-selection but killing of girls after birth (less than 1 million before 1 yr, 17 million from 1-15 yrs) http://genderbytes.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/this-confirms-indias-genocide-of-women-is-not-driven-by-sex-selective-abortions/ ; 2)the only strata w/ normal child ratio are the poorest 20% and it gets worse as you go up http://genderbytes.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/why-education-and-economics-are-not-the-solution-to-indias-female-genocide/ 3)Please watch this video I presented to the UN on India’s femicide http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/RitaBanerji-1601883-six-forms-femicide-india/

  15. Divya Srivastavaa

    In ancient times, the reason behind women not being allowed to visit temples was this:
    It is believed that when a woman is menstruating, her aura is broken and that time she is vulnerable to attracting a lot of negative energy. While a temple is a religious place, it is also a place where most people come to dump their shit, pour out their troubles, etc. In that state, it was believed that the woman would be particularly susceptible to attracting all the negativity and thereby causing harm to herself….Please Note That By No Means Am I Defending This Practice Nor Do I Follow It , I am simply presenting before you the other perspective – the ancient belief that exists even today *sigh*

    1. Ritu

      Unfortunately that belief, if true, does not exist in its ‘ancient’ form today. It has taken a dirty twisted form today.
      Another ancient belief is that a family must send with their daughter property and other amenities so she can be well settled in her new home. Today it has taken the form of dowry. This twisting of ancient ‘beliefs’, which were as it is unscientific, needs to stop. Instead we as a society need to become more informed in our practices.

  16. Aravind

    People have individual beliefs, what is the big deal about it? I personally believe that pooja is not some party or something merely to get entertained, it has its own rituals and just because we don’t understand does not mean it has to be wrong. In any case, it is upto the owner of the property to decide whether to allow girls in the pooja or not.

    1. adya00

      And who is the owner of temples?

  17. purushottam

    1)Its very futile to expect other interpretation from those who do not understand their existence beyond the physical.
    2)Some pseudo intellectuals, or non believers or may be some feminists who have no freedom in their own religion and cannot fight a single inch against all subtle/gross cruelties of their own religion against women– or simply some people who just want to outgrow their own religion’s population,need to always belittle all practices in Indian religions it has happened all along british rule and other invasions.
    3)It is no discrimination there are actually even stringent rules for men to follow while worshiping. Those are not followed is not the issue, even many women hide and surpass this preventive guideline. For men such preventive guidelines are not written at the entry but they are written explicitly all over in many of the ancient books, puraanas, and the threats there are far worse.
    4)The specific case discussed is surely made out to be like a rock age but it is not.
    5)It is so childish to talk about it that way because the science of/behind temple itself is ruined/finished, it is beyond doubt why elaborate temple culture came into existence when almost all household had the miniature temple/puja house inside their home for personal ritualistic worshiping. Public temples were meant for spiritual growth and daily/frequent cosmic/energy boost. It was proper science e=m*c^2. The bigger question is how we can revive the holistic culture that was in sync with highly sophisticated scientific principles/facts (that knew correlation of menstruation and the moon) or can the seeker/author dare ask why all the messengers of GOD in the west were male? or is the GOD over there ‘him’self discriminating?
    6)The whole process of menstruation is the basis for the physical, and the whole process of GOD realization is most probably understanding beyond just physical. so isn’t the co occurrence unwarranted? In a scientifically underdeveloped or male dominated society that discrimination may have been based upon hygiene that basis could be irrelevant after advent of sanitary-pad but for a spiritual society it is still meant to be a natural choice.
    7)above all basically for majority of population who cannot drop even the most trivial of their ‘ism the act of temple visit itself is absolutely out of context/irrelevant/meaningless

    1. adya00

      While you do make some decent points what exactly is your verdict?

  18. Sanjeev Patwardhan

    Among st other things one more reason why this ritual was started has roots in India being a land of the tiger.

    Many of these rituals like pooja were not performed at home but rather at a special place (Like a temple) that would be far from the normal abode. While menstruating a women’s scent is more distinct to animals of prey and it was for her safety that this ritual (Of women not allowed during their periods) probably was started. Later the tigers were killed but the rituals followed without much thought. There are a lot of experiments done on conditioning of the mind and how a negative reaction can reinforce a pattern that transforms into a habit which then becomes the character of the society.

    If you look at any religion/ country/ sect you will see many such idiosyncrasies. I was travelling in Middle East and went to my driver Abdullah’s ancestral home in the desert. I was offered a warm welcome but nobody came and individually greeted me or introduced me. I felt it was weird and on my return I asked Abdullah about it. He said that he was told not to ask the name for 3 days but he did not know the reasoning behind it. I just happened to mention it to a theologian. He told me the real reason for this “ritual”. The reason is long drawn enmities between clans. If a stranger comes to your home in the desert his health comes first coz he probably got lost in the desert. So for the 1st 3 days not asking any questions but taking care of the guest is of paramount importance. I have many such stories ranging from African desert/ african savannah, Masai traditions to Native American tribal rituals. Looking at them from a different field gives a different perspective. If you are in Saudi Arabia — its not safe to be strongly individualistic by showing skin, you may have the strongest hair but you have to cover your head when you go to a Gurudwara (Why should I if I am bald? question does not arise). Do you shout out loudly in the library if you are the only person in the library ???

    If I did not believe in Christianity it would still seem odd if I did not wish back “Merry Christmas” to a total stranger in US/ UK. I do not know if I would speak out everytime I see something odd happen. I will surely let my opinion known when it does cross a limit (Like acts of cruelty — even that I had to suppress when I saw public lashing/ stoning was too horrible for any human to witness). If you want to raise a voice please raise it against corruption, against poverty, against caste-ism.

    1. adya00

      So essentially what you’re saying is that this ‘rule’ should be followed?

    2. Sanjeev Patwardhan

      I am not saying that this rule should be followed or not. It is up to the person to interpret and follow. An individual has a choice of participating or not participating. If you are in the western world you will see many signs on store fronts — Shoes and Shirt needed for service. If its really warm outside and you feel like you should be wearing a tank top — just do not go to the store on that day. Visit the store on any other day. Whats the big deal!

      If you are going to a temple you believe in Idol worship — so with this train of thoughts you must be ok with the sign that is outside the temple. Its the mentality of pseudo-rationalists that I have the biggest issue’s with. You say God is everywhere and yet have issues with a sign posted outside a temple.

      Someone else on this bog said something great about Muslims (However the author said that they are not well versed with the practice of Islam). I have been at the birth-place of Islam and been at the religious places of Islam. How can you say that Islam is good for women when
      1) Only in Islam a man can have 4 wives
      2) Sharia law is the most draconian for women: I know i will get flak for this statement
      2) The world gender inequality map shows Muslim dominated countries to be worst in terms or education/ basic hygeine/ health education/ civil rights.

      Hindu’s are mocked for not eating cow meat — if you dare — ask a Muslim to eat pork. Why have different yard sticks for diff. religions. Yes! I do not like people walking in my house with their shoes on — And if you come to my house on your own free will you have to take your shoes off before you enter my house. Similarly you are going to the temple on your own free will — and you must respect the rules of the house.

      As far as the household in the narrative goes — I feel sorry for the girl. I do not know if it was a joint family and the elders called the shots.

      You cannot fight this battle on the blog but being a member of the society you can change it small things at a time. Lets keep the religious tones away please. It gets to mud-slinging

  19. seeratk7

    You have spoken my mind. We get so agitated by the “visible” crimes against women such as sexual assaults, that we fail to notice the deep-rooted flaws in the treatment given to women in our society in daily life. The worst part is when women themselves start believing and endorsing such(as you correctly put) spoon fed ideas, without giving them much thought. I don’t entirely blame them, cause such insensitive ideas are given to them by none other than their closed ones; their families, their female relatives- mothers too- and of course cultural and religious practices further consolidate such ideas in their minds. Their thinking goes like this:- ” If our family is telling us to do so, it must be right?After all parents know the best. Besides, religion is sacred, even to question it is a sin”. With such a preconditioned state of mind, its very hard to free them from their own shackles That’s precisely why we have so many brainstorming, youth empowering platforms such as this one nowadays. Its safe to say that as long as we continue to challenge any questionable practices happening around us, we are certainly heading towards a safe and secure future.

  20. Sarath Chandran

    Its not about partiality to girls.. But as per hindu religion one should not enter the temple or attend poojas if he/she is impure in any means. Last week i was not allowed to attend a pooja as i directly came out from a hospital, i had to take bath again to attend the pooja. A hindu is not allowed to enter any temple for 16 days if he close relative has passed away (its considered as impure).

    “Rules are made to be followed, not to break.”

    1. Vivek

      There are some rules which I have heard of: when a sin is happening the karma of that sin is bound to 6 people including the person who is actually causing that sin. the 6 kind of people are even the one who sees it is bound by karma, the who hears it is also bound by karma.

      So how many times have we followed this rule? How many times have we tried to stop the happening of a sin? Have we never been a party to a sin?

    2. adya00

      2 questions.

      1. How is a woman impure when menstruating.
      2. Do rules never change? All rules have been followed that were written 4000 years ago?

    3. Sarath Chandran

      Any substance which is excreted by body is considered as impure.

    4. adya00

      Aah, of course. Then that includes exhaled air, flatulence, sneezing, sweat, blood that comes out when you get hurt, the hair that you shed,. So I guess people don’t sweat when in temples, they don’t sneeze, they don’t fart, they never get hurt or someone’s who’s hurt never goes to the temple. Also beggars who are highly unclean are never found sitting in temples and we stop shedding hair in temples(I should be spending more time there maybe I’ll have denser hair and less hair fall). And hey, what about stool formation that keeps happening in the body all the time. Dude there’s shit inside us. Could it get ay more worse than that?

    5. nat

      your brain should have left your body…because your thoughts are impure !

    6. adya00

      @Sarath
      I forgot add something, babies. They are flushed out of the mother’s body, they must be impure too. Meaning we are all impure, then none of us should be going to temples.

    7. Sarath Chandran

      all the above said reason are considerd as impure, a priest who sneezes, coughs, yawns is considered as impure and he has to undergo ‘Aachamana Kriya’ (a small process which takes abt 30 secs) to make him purify himself. If a baby is born, the mother and babies close relatives should not visit temples for the next 16 days

    8. adya00

      Buy what about the wastes that our body is making every second? Do we stop and do all these purification kriyas every time we sneeze, yawn, or sweat. Do you?
      And more importantly, do you follow every rule written in every book of Hinduism?
      And as far as women not being allowed to go to temples after delivery, its because they are weak, and need bed rest.

    9. Sarath Chandran

      Any substance which is flushed out by human body is considered as impure.

  21. Sarath Chandran

    Hindu rituals are followed by 2 base authoritive texts “SRUTHI and SMRITHI”
    Smrithi are those rituals that can be changed (if necessary) from time to time for eg: Upasana, japa etc

    Sruthi are those rituals which cannot be changed from time to time. for eg: Yajnas,yagam, homam.
    Sruthi texts are 4 vedas n 108 upanishads. All the ruituals should be performed as per Sruthi, no change can be made.
    Its like Act and Rules. Every Act has a Rule. Act should not contradict the Rule.

    1. adya00

      Are you saying this rule of not letting woman enter temples when they are menstruating should be followed strictly?

    2. Sarath Chandran

      Yes, that what I meant. Now you might contradict me. But, no one is compelling anyone to visit the temple. If they want to enter the temple they must follow the rules. Its applicable for both boys and girls

    3. adya00

      So I assume you have read the Vedas, the other scriptures, and follow Evey single rule. You also follow all rules laid down by the government and have never broken any rule.
      secondly, who are you to say that women should follow a rule written 4000 years back by sick idiots who think Mahabharata is also a great epic. Have you seen the treatment of women there? Its repelling. Have you read the manusmriti? I’m guessing you think no female in your family can ever be independent and always has to be under the ‘protection’ (read clutches) of a father, husband or son.

  22. niyati upadhyay

    Hey generally speaking God stays in every living being…I just want to know does God get out of a woman when she is having her menses and is “unclean”? ‘Coz it is written in Shrimad Bhagwad Gita that God leaves the unclean souls.

  23. rosechaula

    Annie Fraser,

    Well thats just the tip of the ice berg. I have seen homes where we are actually not able to do anything, just sit and let everybody know that we have periods. We are responsible for this situation. There are people who will not even take water from you if they know that you have your periods. They will proclaim their dislike as if getting periods is a crime. But the hypocrisy is that they would like to have dinner prepared by you. Then why do they expect babies from us. We go through a hell lot of things during that period and instead of consoling us we are looked down upon. There are people who do not allow u to enter in their kitchen and will wash the whole house after u leave if u have ur periods. This is what the biggest hypocrisy in a young Indian lady goes through.

  24. Abidha Ayyoob

    After reading through this post and “comments” as well, I realize how much people in India have got to improve!! Most people are educated in India but still can’t use their brains to try and find if there is any logic behind things. It’s not a new information that menstruating is actually a process by which the body cleanses itself…the girl does not become impure and unhealthy due to this. It is just so wrong to totally isolate her during this stage and treat her like filth.
    Hats Off to Annie for speaking out about this bravely, I am going to share this in my blog as well.
    Keep writing and Good luck!

  25. Jai

    Sad to see anti Hindu bigots having a field day. If I start questioning Abida or Annie regarding some of the practices in Islam or Christianity against females they might have to hide away, but I dont enjoy doing that . As a Hindu I know my female relatives refusing to attend poojas or temples while having periods even if I ask them to accompany me. I have never forced them to attend as they are uncomfortable doing that. So why are you lot so bothered about it. Live and let live 🙂

    1. adya00

      Jai,

      You seem to have failed to see the point. The point wasn’t an agenda against Hinduism, it’s an agenda against practices that discriminate against women. Its definitely heartening to see that you ask women to accompany you to temples, but at the same time do you ask them why do they not? The do not because they have been led to believe that they are impure when they are menstruating. I would think that you should sit down with them and explain that this notion is highly demeaning towards women. If in the first place they were not told they are not ‘unholy, ‘unclean’ etc, they would visit the temples just like you, anytime.

    2. Abidha Ayyoob

      Anti-Hindu??? Dear brother, I never mentioned any religion here! Unfair practices against women are carried out in India regardless of what religion they follow…People just bend and make their own rules to their preference!
      I can’t speak about other religion because I am not well versed in it but Islam gives so much importance to women which men in India just wouldn’t admit. That does not mean the religion is bad. I’m sure this is the case with all religions.
      For example:
      – In Islam menstruating women are supposed to be handled with patience and love, but I have heard of husbands who either totally desert them or rape them when they are in pain!
      – Dowry system is banned in Islam, it is clearly mentioned it is the boy who has to provide for his wife, but how many muslims do you see following that?? I am against them too!
      – Killing innocent people for no reason is a BIG NO in Islam, but……
      The list will never end if we get into it! It would be very wrong to blame a religion for what people have made out of it!

  26. Sanjeev Patwardhan

    I am not saying that this rule should be followed or not. It is up to the person to interpret and follow. An individual has a choice of participating or not participating. If you are in the western world you will see many signs on store fronts — Shoes and Shirt needed for service. If its really warm outside and you feel like you should be wearing a tank top — just do not go to the store on that day. Visit the store on any other day. Whats the big deal!

    If you are going to a temple you believe in Idol worship — so with this train of thoughts you must be ok with the sign that is outside the temple. Its the mentality of pseudo-rationalists that I have the biggest issue’s with. You say God is everywhere and yet have issues with a sign posted outside a temple.

    Someone else on this bog said something great about Muslims (However the author said that they are not well versed with the practice of Islam). I have been at the birth-place of Islam and been at the religious places of Islam. How can you say that Islam is good for women when
    1) Only in Islam a man can have 4 wives
    2) Sharia law is the most draconian for women: I know i will get flak for this statement
    2) The world gender inequality map shows Muslim dominated countries to be worst in terms or education/ basic hygeine/ health education/ civil rights.

    Hindu’s are mocked for not eating cow meat — if you dare — ask a Muslim to eat pork. Why have different yard sticks for diff. religions. Yes! I do not like people walking in my house with their shoes on — And if you come to my house on your own free will you have to take your shoes off before you enter my house. Similarly you are going to the temple on your own free will — and you must respect the rules of the house.

    As far as the household in the narrative goes — I feel sorry for the girl. I do not know if it was a joint family and the elders called the shots.

    You cannot fight this battle on the blog but being a member of the society you can change it small things at a time. Lets keep the religious tones away please. It gets to mud-slinging

    1. adya00

      Hi Sanjeev,

      So you have made more or less good points. And yes condition of women is indeed very bad in many areas where Islam is prevalent.

      But the point of this discussion transcends religion. The problem lies in the fact that women are considered unclean when they are menstruating. As simple as that.
      The owner of the property logic can’t really apply here because who then owns the temples? And why are temples made? Many girls/women might wanna go to temples simple to admire the architecture. So its not a question of religion.

    2. Sarath Chandran

      adya
      temples are not museums, a woman cant even enter into a mosque (it doesnt matter whether she is clean or unclean, some muslim casts allow but that too with strict restrictions )
      A temple is owned by the particular main diety of that temple.

    3. adya00

      And you’re saying the main deity made all these rules?

    4. adya00

      And one more thing, Hindus don’t eat beef because they consider it unholy to kill it. It gives milk. But Muslims don’t eat pork because it is a very dirty animal. There is absolutely no comparison.

    5. Abidha Ayyoob

      Dear Sanjeev,
      Again…I repeat…people bending rules according to their convenience doesn’t mean a religion is bad. And this is not just the case of Islam, its seen everywhere! It looks like its not just me who is not well versed in this regard! Maybe you should really look into the CORRECT rulings of why men can take 4 wives, Shariah, education and rights given to women before questioning! I am sure you’ll be surprised at what you find!
      I am not mocking any religion here….its my personal belief that all religion comes from the same source and hence, i respect it all! I am only against the people who makeup rules to their convenience!!

  27. lets go

    Its up to you to follow the rules. I enter temples, sit in poojas and eat beef – I am a Hindu. My respect and devotion comes from my heart not by fasting or eating or not eating a particular type of meat.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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