‘A Young Bleeding Woman’ Pens An Open Letter To The ‘Keepers’ Of Sabrimala Temple

By Nikita Azad:

Respected Sir,

I am a girl, of 20. I have eyes, nose, ears, lips, arms, legs just as any human on earth. But, unfortunately, I also have breasts, hips, and a bleeding vagina. I recently came to know that my blood pollutes the temple Sabrimala, and I am denied entry into it because I am a woman who menstruates. When questioned, you said, “A time will come when people will ask if all women should be disallowed from entering the temple throughout the year. These days there are machines that scan bodies and check for weapons. There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the ‘right time’ (not menstruating) for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside.”

I am not furious at your statement, but I am saddened.

Sabrimala temple nikita azad

I come from a Hindu family. My parents always taught me how to bow in front of idols of numerous gods and goddesses. Each year, I go to Chintapurni, Naina Devi, Vaishno Devi, Chamunda Devi, Jawala Ji with my family. My parents have taught me how God created men and women as equals, how all humans are children of God. Your statement has left me dumbstruck, by breaking every belief I had in God.

I have heard my mother say that women don’t enter temples during ‘that time’, but I usually avoided this belief as something stupid until now. I thought that for a particular section, women may become impure by bleeding, but I am shattered to know that for one of the biggest historic temples in India, bleeding is a sin.

I have carried sanitary napkins in a black polythene all my life, so as to protect my honour. I have always carefully placed the napkin so that my dress doesn’t absorb blood, have gone into washroom numerous times to check if it is in place during that time. I have silently carried the bag into the washroom and have given shy smiles when asked upon where I am going. I have hurriedly run to the dustbin so that my dad, brother don’t see that I am down. I have consciously searched for shops with female shopkeepers for purchasing sanitary napkins. I have tried my best to uphold the sacred culture of our society. I have never offended you.

But, I am sorry. I was not able to end the blood flowing out of my body. I am not able to end my curse, which I obtained by participating in the murder of a Brahmin (that’s what the historical justification of menstruation is). Blood flows out. It is my fault, right?

With due respect, I dare to ask a few questions about my fault.

All men who enter the temple are a product of sexual intercourse done by a man and a woman. The woman keeps the baby in her womb for about nine months, provides nutrition through her uterus to the baby, and gives birth to the baby through her vagina. Aren’t all the men who enter the temple product of the blood formed in their mothers’ uteruses?

As a child, I was worshipped as a Devi on Ashtami. But, as I grew up, I was told that I am impure. My parents were reminded repeatedly that they need to marry me off in order to free themselves of the burden. I was told that my egg must fertilise with a man’s sperm chosen by society. If I dare choose the sperm on my own, I will be disowned. Similarly, you have decided that I should not bring my polluted blood inside the temple. But, which God gave somebody the right to choose what I do with my blood?

Sir, I have no interest in entering the temple, for I refuse to believe in a God that considers his own children impure. But, I wish to ask you, with which God’s permission are you proposing that my purity be checked? I hope you are well aware of the Devadasi system, once propagated by your God, and which gradually became a system whereby a girl is married to a deity or temple, and then became a prostitute for upper caste communities. We have gotten rid of this casteist, inhuman, patriarchal practice with much difficulty, but I gather that you are proposing another such system by implanting machines that check purity.

We live in a nation, “a democratic nation”, where a woman is raped every twenty minutes, and every second woman is subject to domestic violence. According to you, perhaps the reason behind these is also blood. As you have given the solution to protect the sanctity of temple by not allowing bleeding women inside, do you propose that bleeding women should be caged in homes to prevent such incidents? Of course, you do. I hope you miss your friend, Asaram Bapu who said that the rapists of Delhi Gang Rape would have pitied Nirbhaya if she called them Bhaiya.

Last question. You have mocked the entire women community by tagging menstruation as an impure activity. But, at the same time, you have claimed a temple made by my fellow brothers, sisters as your private ancestral property. By which authority, do you call Sabrimala temple, your temple? By what authority, do you decide that I cannot enter the temple?

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.

In wait of answers

Yours sincerely,
A young, bleeding woman

IMPACT: Post publishing, this piece led to mass media mobilization around the issue as several news outlets published excerpts from the author’s letter. A nationwide campaign, #HappyToBleed was organized around the letter and raised important and pertinent questions about menstruation and the stigma around it.

After this post was published and #HappyToBleed became a national campaign, we received the following responses to the article:

Of Sweat, Semen And Menstruation: The Problematic Support For #HappyToBleed

As A Man, I Support #HappyToBleed. It’s High Time We Do Away With Menstrual Taboos!

Menstruation taboos are just one of the ways in which patriarchy oppresses women. But they aren’t alone. Patriarchy also dictates how men should live and behave. Read 7 Ways In Which Being ‘Manly’ Oppresses Men As Much As It Oppresses Women.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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