Periods, a hormonal driven cycle that is solely endured by women every month for the majority of their adult life, it is very impressive how easily men make it all about them and pass orders on women on how to conduct themselves while menstruating. For years, men have been making all the decision, coming up with rules on where women should or should not go and then made it a taboo to even talk about it. All this is the result of a deep-rooted misogyny that for centuries has been messing with the brains of women, telling them that what they are going through is shameful, impure and should never be discussed among people. This taboo surrounding menstruation has been a major cause of problems and serious risks involving women’s reproductive health. All because they are embarrassed to talk about the problems they face during their periods. Not talking about periods has also ensured a lack of facilities that women need during their monthly cycles, further increasing the chances of serious health problems. Even today there are many rural areas where women don’t have any access to basic menstrual hygiene products like sanitary pads or tampons. They use a makeshift pad by tearing up old clothes and sometimes have to reuse it without being aware of the urinary infections they will contract causing serious issues in their reproductive health. What’s more devastating is the fact that they are not even aware of such needs. They are being made to go through this monthly cycle same way as women did centuries ago. It’s simply bizarre that even after hundreds of years, the stigma around periods is more or less the same if not worse.
Not only there’s an alarmingly low number of measures or policies that have come up to improve the deteriorating condition of menstrual hygiene in the country, some of the influential figures have on many occasions blatantly cleared their stand with their nonsensical remarks on women and their issues. These absurd remarks further promote the superstition surrounding the important matter of women’s health and empowerment.
Recently, in a resurfaced old video of a self-proclaimed god-man, Krushnaswarup Das of Swami Narayan Bhuj Mandir, was found ridiculously commenting, saying “if menstruating women cook for their husbands, they will be born as kutri (bitch) in next life”. He also warned men against the consumption of such food and asked them to learn how to cook themselves during that time.
With comments like these, the only conclusion that we gather is that it’s fine to openly talk about menstruation as long as people ridicule or mock it, not when there’s a need to spread awareness among the people to remove the stigma around the same.
The fact that women are barred from entering a house of worship, a taboo alive since long back, has in recent years faced a lot of criticism which can be seen as an evidence from the Sabrimala case, where women lawyers had challenged the age old rule of ‘Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship’ 1965, which restricted the women of menstruating age from entering the temple
This ongoing fight against the violation of rights on the basis of gender discrimination is one of the many examples of toxic cultures that had been made to suppress the freedom of women. Even after enduring the excruciating pain through menstruation, they are made to feel inferior against the opposite gender.
It is very hard to distance oneself from a venomous practice that has been ingrained in our culture from centuries, but surely it is the need of the hour, which the girls of Shri Sahajanand Girls Institute will certainly vouch for. What happened on 13th February in SSGI, Gujrat’s Bhuj was nothing short of brutal and oppressive. Reports state that 68 under graduate girls were forced to remove their undergarments to prove that they weren’t menstruating. Based on the accusation by the warden that the girls were violating the ‘religious norms’ by entering the temple on the college premises and touching other fellow students, the girls were first insulted by the principal in front of their classmates and then taken to the washrooms where the female teachers asked them to individually remove their undergarments to prove that they weren’t menstruating.
The college has various norms that restrict the girls during menstruation from entering temple, kitchen, or even physical contact with other girl students. After the public outrage, Bhuj police had filed a FIR against the principal, warden and 2 more staff, who were then later on arrested. The accused were booked under IPC sections 384 (extortion), 355 (assault with intent to dishonor a person and 506 (criminal intimidation).
This is not the first time that a preposterous incident like this has taken place and sadly it won’t be the last. For years women have been blamed for their own problems. They face the problem by themselves, go through with it by themselves, and survive it by themselves, but guess who gets to pass judgment and make decisions regarding that problem – ‘Men’. Women have been constantly ignored and overlooked for decades by this so called ‘superior’ gender. But now the women have started to breakfree from these unjust, oppressive cultures and launched a fight for their rights and equality in the society.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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