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An Open Letter To You: From The ‘Young, Bleeding Woman’ Who Shook Sabarimala

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By Nikita Azad:

Dear reader,

The last time I wrote an open letter, it was almost a year ago when Sabarimala Devaswom Committee chief made a misogynist remark about menstruating women. Presuming that you already know about it, I would like to address this letter to you. Not to Prayar Gopalakrishnan or to the temple, but only the reader.

Ever since the campaign ‘Happy To Bleed’ started, we received an overwhelming response from all parts of the country. It made us believe that gender discrimination (in any form) is the most intolerable thing for women, which is why they have supported the campaign hugely. However, after almost a year of incessant struggle against menstrual discrimination, when we were ready to bring menstrual health into discussion, a group has started the backlash against temple entry, arguing in favour of traditions, which made me feel that it is time to address everyone together.

While I respect the choice of those women who do not wish to worship inside a temple while menstruating, I am unable to figure out why they want to prohibit those who do wish to enter. I might be a little less experienced than those women, but I have learnt one simple value. Faith knows neither gender nor age. I reject the argument that since only women of a certain age group are prohibited from entering the temple, it is not a gender issue. My humble question to all those women who wish to wait until they reach menopause is – why can’t a 16-year old girl worship while a boy of the same age can?

A man with equally active reproductive organs is allowed inside the temple while a woman is not. Is semen purer than menstrual blood? However, for us, it is not a question of pure v/s impure or men v/s women. Our fight begins from our homes and workplaces. Relatives who beat our mothers to abort us, to in-laws who burn us, to those who rape us, to temples that denigrate us, it is a struggle inherent to the struggle against patriarchy.

To understand the inferiority complex that surrounds young girls when they are prohibited from entering temples, we conducted surveys in Punjab, New Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, and West Bengal. I would like to share two interviews with you.

The first example is of Shashi, a 15-year-old Hindu girl from an economically weaker colony in Ludhiana. When I asked her whether she worships while menstruating or goes to the temple, she responded, “If menstruation is something impure, why did God create it?” She goes to the temple whenever she wishes to and said that she would love to go to Sabarimala in the hills. She further argued that her mother, a construction worker, can work for hours with a lot of weight on her shoulders, and a trek to Sabarimala would not be difficult for her.

Another Dalit woman, Rinki, said that, “I want to worship daily, that is what worship is supposed to be, even if I menstruate. It is all a false propaganda by some people who consider menstruation impure, just as they consider us untouchable.”

We have scores of videos and interviews of women, young girls who wish to enter temples, exercise their rights, love their bodies, and who want menstruation to be accepted as a biological activity. While this is only one side of the picture, another is yet more horrific. During our survey, we did not limit ourselves to menstrual taboos but also asked women about menstrual health. The results shocked us to the core. Most of the women still use rags, old clothes, and live in perilous conditions during menstruation. Who is to be held responsible for it? Silence. Silence and stigma around menstruation that never gave space to women to demand menstrual care!

Thus, I refuse to be silent. I am not ready to wait. We are not ready to wait because we do not want more foeticides, more rapes, or more sexual assaults. Women have been waiting for years to attain equality. We are not going to cherish the Devadasi system and say, “Who is the constitution to prohibit us?” We are not going to say, “Who is the court to devoid us from the joy of waiting till we reach menopause?”

We will say, proudly, that we want to struggle, and enter Sabarimala. We want to trek and take risks. We believe in our strength and want to become even more stronger. Our fight is for gender equality, entering the temple is only the beginning.

Yours sincerely,

A young, bleeding woman

– Nikita Azad is a writer and founder of the campaign ‘Happy To Bleed’.

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  1. Robin Joseph

    Dumb lady .. there is no such ban of women in sabarimala temple. there is age restriction only. because theswami there is in naisttikabrahmachari mode. Each temple has its own rituals and believes.. there is a temple in kerala called mannarasala where there is no male priest. there is another temple event called aattukal pongala where men are not allowed. non believers like you should stay away from making unnecessary controversies. Development should not be by screwing over your culture and traditions!! It is a tradition in Sabarimala since its inception that menstruating women should not visit the temple and it may be for a cause. If someone does not believe in this, then for what purpose they wish to visit Sabarimala – for Pilgrimmage or for Honeymoon?

  2. HyperTron111

    there’s a factual error in your assessment – the ban of menstrual age women in sabarimala is NOT because they are impure, but because the god there may loose his celibacy.

    1. Nikita Azad

      That is what we are unable to understand, Sir. How can a God lose his celibacy by the mere presence of a woman? Secondly, if God is present in every particle, then he will lose celibacy everywhere and in that case, women will have to leave this planet!

  3. HyperTron111

    Completely agree with you. I’m just trying to point out that the article is not directly addressing the argument put forward by those who “ready to wait”. Generally, logic has no place in belief. If someone is naive enough to believe that God is present in every particle, why can’t they believe he is weak enough to loose his celibacy?

  4. Nandalal Sivadas

    Hello Nikita. With all due respect, I urge you to stay out of this. You can’t question what’s been followed from centuries. It’s people’s believes and customs you are questioning in the name of feminism and freedom of speech. This is the God’s choice, not men’s.

    Why don’t you take some time to read about Muslim religion? You will get ample points to show off the feminist in you. If you feel so.

    PS: This is not sitting at home and typing some thing on your computer. This is bigger than you can imagine. This is world. This is history. One day you will realize.

  5. j Vij

    @ Nikitha….read your article…it pinches you when women themselves rally for Happy to wait…doesn’t it?

    You have a problem here because u have never tried to understand the view point of the other side

    Here I will prove it you..I bet you are not a temple visiting hindu?-right? And I think maybe u don’t have any idea what all that is about (the purpose of going to a temple and stuff)

    You have made no effort to understand the other side

    What you are doing is akin to asking “why are students who passed in 12th standard but falling behind in entrance exam not being “allowed” to join professional courses?

    Notice the usage of the word “allowed”? Totally senseless-isnt it?

    Your saying of why women not ” allowded” at sabarimala is something similar

    First understand the concepts…and then question them …using any loophole that u find

    But this standing outside and not making any effort to learn the others POV is a pointless charade

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