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Menstrual myths and practices that discriminate against women for a very natural phenomenon are a scourge of reasonable society.
Recently I watched a short film called Gaokor-A Period House by Priyanka Pathak, which showcased the atrocities a young bride had to undergo when she started menstruating on the 1st day of her marriage.
Prima facie, movie’s fulcrum is hinged upon the notion of the enduring taboos around menstruation in India. In hindsight, we can also see other prevalent issues like child marriages, the parda pratha (practice of veiling and segregation of genders), lack of education, and girls being forced to marry relatively older men under the pretext of ‘poverty’.
The movie’s protagonist is Rani, a girl in her adolescence, who is married off to a man called Baldev, seemingly old enough to be her uncle. While the post wedding rituals are on, it is noticed that the bride is bleeding profusely with droplets of blood flowing freely through her legs. This leads to her being ridiculed by her mother in law for something which was beyond her control.
Rani seems to be totally ignorant of her surroundings, and the changes happening in her body as a result of going through the phase of puberty. Baldev, the groom, tries to convince his aunt to not send the bride to Gaokar – an isolated place away from the village. This is not because he believed that menstruation is a natural phenomenon, but to fulfill his sexual urges and consummate his marriage, as later unfolds in the storyline. The plot further reveals how Rani stayed in the dilapidated thatched hut with the bare minimum of comforts, and was subjected to victim blaming after getting molested by some boys.
Contrary to the expectation that marriage gives you a sense of security and emotional stability, the movie delicately portrays the issue where the innocent girls are expected to break their ties with their parents. They are coerced to believe that their husband’s home is their only home after they tie the nuptial knot, making ‘marriage’ a bond of compromises for the bride. This movie certainly makes it to the list of must watch short movies as it highlights the stark problems looming large on the women community and makes us think on the paradox of gender equality.
Watching this movie reminded me of an incident that had happened a few years back while on my visit to a friend’s house. I was asked not to enter the kitchen as I had my periods then! I felt unwelcome, followed by a feeling of resentment.
There came the realization that it is not only rural women who have to face prejudices because of the myths surrounding the natural process of menstruation but it is also very pervasive in urban areas. Even education and living in a supposedly ‘more progressive’ urban society has not helped us go beyond the influence of age-old, unmindful practices. Does this signify that our ‘education system’ itself is flawed?
As a child, I had known one family where girls had to limit themselves to their rooms during those days of the month. Why there is so much of taboo and shame around menstruation? Why are we asked to go into exile when we bleed?
The greatest irony is that menstruation is imperative for the perpetuation of humankind, but we find it difficult to accept the fact that women bleed every month, and that’s there’s nothing ‘dirty’ about it. Does this indicate that we want to see the world with our eyes shut and be ignorant of reality?
There is a widespread fallacy that menstruating women are impure and many a times, are not allowed to participate in religious ceremonies and are also forbidden from touching sacred things. Also, we keep hearing from our elders not to offer prayers while bleeding, but have we ever pondered over the veracity of this? It is a natural phenomenon and women should not shy away from this.
The need of the hour is to debunk these myths and banish the half-witted practices with the power of reasoning. We need a holistic approach to raise awareness about it and one of the mediums can be by including this in our school syllabus.
Let us go beyond the set old age barriers and break the shackles before it breaks us!
Published here earlier.
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