“If they see breasts coming out,
They call it a woman.
If they see beard and whiskers coming out,
They call it a man.
But there is a self that hovers in between which is neither man nor woman.”
From the very beginning, women in our society are living under harsh circumstances. Our society is continuously oppressing women in the name of traditions. We term ‘tradition’ as the things or practices that have continued for a long period and are given to us by our forefathers.
Nowadays some traditions are changing according to today’s needs. As a result, many beliefs and practices have been changed by us, yet the idea of menstruation is still considered to be a ‘taboo’ especially in India.
Various myths are prevalent in our society about menstruation, such as not allowing menstruating women or girls to enter the kitchen, not letting them take part in religious rituals like pujas, or not letting them touch particular food such as pickles etc.
These practices flourished due to the belief that menstruation was the punishment for a sin committed by Indra, and women have taken Indra’s punishment upon themselves. So people endorse the belief and consider women as ‘impure’ during the menstruation period which continues for almost one week.
The ‘Chhaupadi tradition’ in Nepal is one of the practices followed by the people. According to this tradition, women are considered to be impure during their menstruation state, and they are forced to live in makeshift huts or sheds far away from their homes. Women are not allowed to enter their houses, touch men and other people, go to school and perform other activities.
Moreover, the women are not provided with blankets to give themselves warmth during winters and have to wear rugs of jute known as ‘burlap’. They are barred from eating nutritious foods and have to survive on dry foods, salt and rice.
This tradition is quite dangerous for women, as the practice has led to various deaths due to reasons like suffocation or inhaling the smoke of the fire which they lit to keep themselves warm during winters. Keeping in view the harmful effects of the tradition, the Supreme Court of Nepal banned this tradition in 2005.
In 2017, the government of Nepal also passed a law punishing people who force women to practice ‘Chhaupadi’ with up to three months in jail and a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees.
Various projects have also been started to spread awareness regarding the issue. People like Pulomi Basu are continuously working in this direction.
There is an urgent need to understand that there is nothing pure or impure about menstruation. It is a natural condition. We have to be aware of this so that our present, as well as coming generations, know that there is no such thing as imperfection.
Now, the time has come when we should talk to people, especially our future generation, so that the old outdated thinking of ‘menstrual taboo’ is removed from our society. We must always remember that women are by no means less talented than men and the myths created by our patriarchal society are just to suppress women. If women start believing in these, then the conditions will become worse. Moreover, they are human beings too and not slaves. Women have to stand up themselves to stop this injustice.