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Menstruation is still a taboo in India. Justifies the trolls and comments Rimli Bhattachary received on twitter for saying out loud that she bled every month.
“Menstrual blood is the only source of blood that is not traumatically induced. Yet in modern society, this is the most hidden blood, the one so rarely spoken of and almost never seen, except privately by women” – Judy Grahn
I had opened a twitter account and was taking baby steps to learn how to use it when I faced the rudest shock of my life. I had started following the noted journalist Barkha Dutt and always loved reading her regular tweets. She had launched a campaign for breaking the taboos encompassing menstruation where I happily tweeted, “I say it loud and clear, that I bleed every month”. While my tweet was supported by Dutt herself, there was one particular man who retorted, “Control, these things are not to be spoken in public.” And then the trolling started.
I was trolled by twenty odd men who quoted my tweet and also said “Please say loud and clear that you also s***t everyday.” I took a look at that man’s profile who had asked me to control and found that he was a doctor by profession. But of course there is always a doubt about the identity when you interact on the virtual world of social media. The trolling and online abuses continued and I had to block at least a dozen such perverts.
So, here we stand, to speak openly on menstruation is still a taboo. And in this essay I will write on the taboos that still exists in India on menstruation.
Let me cite my own example. When I first got my periods I was told I could not enter a temple, touch any God or Goddess idols while I am bleeding. I was a little girl and such customs angered me. Avoiding the elder’s eyes I touched the idol of my favorite God. No, nothing happened, but I was given an explanation that I was impure during those seven days and the God won’t like my touch. But in my case God did not show any repulsion. Though we are trying to break the taboo and stigma attached to menstruation in India and especially in the rural sectors, a woman is still being held back when she has her periods.
As per the rituals in India, women are often denied their daily involvement with the house chores while she is menstruating. She is considered ‘impure’ and society demands purification of a woman before she is allowed to enter her routine work. This is more rigorously practiced in rural India.
The other taboo which still prevails in both rural and urban areas are the prohibition of worshipping when the woman is on her periods. In addition to that another constraint includes not touching the Holy books or the customary prayer books.
Another freakish custom mostly practiced is not entering the kitchen when the woman is bleeding. This sounds good to me as I am one of those female who hate kitchen chores but the custom doesn’t amuse me when it is forced on other women without proper logic behind it. Apparently, a woman’s body “emits a particular odor when she menstruates” and therefore it is said that the smell can spoil food, especially sour ones like pickles. insert eye roll
Ethnic norms are often coalesced with traditional associations with concepts like evil spirits, ignominy and general awkwardness. It has been observed that women bury their stained clothes used during the bleeding cycle to avoid evil spirits casting black magic on them. It is also said that a woman can use her period blood to impose her will on her man.
Dietary restrictions are followed which prohibits consumption of food items specially the sour ones like lime, curd, pickles, tamarind and lot more. It is said consumption of sour items may stop the bleeding, which would adversely affect women’s health. However there is no scientific reason behind such ridiculous behavior. one more eye roll
Exercise is also supposed to be avoided when the woman is on her periods as it may aggravate dysmenorrhea. Whereas we all know that exercise is good for health and also it is responsible for the release of serotonin or the happy hormone. Further reports NCBI that in some parts of India bodily excretions are believed to be polluting, as are the bodies when producing them. All women, regardless of their social caste, incur pollution through the bodily processes of menstruation and childbirth.
Such proscriptions about menstruation create a severe impact on women’s emotional state, psychology, lifestyle and most importantly, health. Large numbers of girls in the rural areas of the developing countries drop out of school when they begin menstruating.
It is high time we break such stigmas associated with menstruation. Empower, educate and help a woman overcome the cultural taboo. Every individual in India should know periods is just another normal biological phenomenon by the almighty. Improve the sanitary conditions and remove such prejudiced notions in name of menstruation.
And yes a lasting reminder to the men populace that it can be said loud and clear without fear or shame “Yes we women bleed every month.”
Image source – Unsplash
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Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of
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