When Will Religion Stop Interfering With Women’s Right To Bleed Freely?

Period Paath logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC, to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management among menstruating persons in India. Join the conversation to take action and demand change! The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

A recent incident from Bhuj, Gujarat has once again put forward the reflections from the old controversy of the Sabarimala temple where women from 10 to 50 years of age were literally banned from entering and worshipping the shrine.

The case is not just of Sabarimala but in almost every religion – be it Islam, Judaism, Christianity – everywhere, a woman and her blood has been given certain restricted zones. In some places, it is celebrated as something very ‘pious and pure,’ and in other places, it is taken as ‘dirty and impure.’

What happened in Bhuj, Gujarat with sixty eight students being asked to remove their underwear in order to prove that weren’t menstruating as there is a temple inside the college campus, is something drawing attention from every corner of the country. The students are demanding legal action against those who made them to do so.

With this a question has come to my mind: how does Hinduism actually see menstruation? After going through different articles, I found that in most of the cases it has been said that Hinduism celebrates menstruation and does not abhor it. Shakta philosophy upholds it as a gift which is responsible for the creation of life.

The Kamakhya temple in Assam celebrates annually, the menstrual cycle of the Goddess. There is a structure inside the temple which resembles the yoni or the feminine symbol of creation. The Yoni Tantra philosophy speaks about worshipping the yoni (literally, the female reproductive organ) which has started menstruating.

The Ritu Kala Samskara is a practice in Karnataka where the first mensuration of a girl is celebrated. She is decorated in a saree and is given gifts and jewellery. A married woman conducts an aarti (veneratory practice) of her and she is asked to gladly welcome her puberty.

But after coming across such celebratory phases that are practiced in different parts of our country, what I genuinely feel is that the ‘superhuman’ status granted to the women while they are on their period is something that prevents her from become a natural woman during these five days.

In fact, many are of the opinion that during this phase, a woman is so pure and full of energy that if she enters a temple, then the energy of the shrine may pass to her .

I don’t know what God looks like; I am sure that none of us do. But I am a woman and I too menstruate like all other women. I don’t think that this super godly image that is given to us by the unorthodox Hindu philosophy is of any use either. It is this hyper celebration of periods which actually forbids us from being treated as a normal human being while we bleed.

Menstruation is a scientific phenomenon and there is absolutely no need of attaching any religious significance to it. With this, I strongly condemn the incident in Bhuj.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: WASH United/Wikimedia Commons.
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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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