Back in the days, when I was about 12/13 years old, the temple in front of my house had a certain chaos in the middle of the night. To know what had happened, my family and I went and saw this woman shivering with all her hair towards her face. On being genuinely concerned, I was told that this was an example of the God’s entering in her body (eslai bhagwaan chadeko cha). After some days, I was told that this had happened because a girl crossed the temple while menstruating. The small girl that I was and of what I had seen when I was growing up, I was scared to go near the temple(while menstruating) for many years after that.
Not anymore. Over the years, I have learnt that me bleeding for 4-5 days every month is nothing but a natural process. The whole notion about being untouchable in the society was probably created by dominant patriarchs to further enhance their supremacy over women and to make call the whole process a taboo for no apparent reason. In fact, one reason why I love coming to my workplace every morning is because I (or any other woman working in the organization) is never looked through the lens of “a girl on her periods”. I am never the untouchable girl like I would be at home where there are so many restrictions just because some amount of blood is flowing from my body. I am a bold, independent and enthusiastic woman who is trying to fulfill her dreams, one day at a time. In going more deep into it, I don’t even blame my mothers and grandmothers or any older generation women for believing that such a natural attribute is to be impure and unworthy. It is probably their fear and irrelevant ideas that they were built and brought up with due to which they still believe in it and want us to believe the same. Probably they never questioned the overall idea about menstruating women being more pure than anyone else in the world. One factor that contributes even more to the idea and stigma over menstruation is the continuation of Rishi Panchami Puja every year two days after Teej in the Nepali calender. The logic behind this puja is supposedly to try and please the lords (Rishis) to make sure that no woman bleeds in any important days of her life. It is believed that by offering prayers to these so called Rishis, there are high chances that women will not be in their periods when they get married, or has another puja at home, or in any important life functions that might happen with her. I don’t even see any logic behind the overall stigma. Our mothers and grandmothers never challenged the idea and never asked for an answer as to why we as women have to be called “impure” every month. Older generation women never challenged the Shastras to ask for an answer as to why is it so important to make the Rishis happy when all that we are going through is a very natural process that we have to go through every month. Not only this, but women are barred to sleep in their own beds, are not allowed to touch men and enter the kitchen because during that time of the month she is impure and if she happens to touch anything it would be impure too. Many years ago, I also heard a different logic: this idea came into action so that women would get a chance to rest for at least four days every month to avoid the brutality of their mother-in-laws.
Often I ask myself, if it wasn’t for menstruation or what is very proudly labeled as impure and untouchable, how would anyone come into this world? If this was a process that the GODs are so afraid of, why would they give the power of giving birth to a woman instead of a man? Where in the Bhagwad Gita or in any holy book is it written that a woman on her periods should not visit a temple? Who has made these useless laws after all?
I am left with no answers whatsoever. I remember an incident where my mother cried her heart out because she missed an important event because it was “one of those days” and she could not be there because social stigma and impurity would have killed it. Generation after generation, women have dealt with this and have never spoken a word against it. I might have to still go through it for my mother and her mother and because I do not want to hurt their beliefs but one thing I am pretty sure about is that if I ever give birth to a girl child, I will kill this stigma before she grows up so that she will not have to go through anything that I or my mother or her mother went through, for no apparent reason!
Taken from the writer’s personal blog: http://jotkaluru.blogspot.in/
About the writer:
The writer is a communications officer at Samriddhi Foundation, a public policy think-tank in Nepal. She recently finished her MA in Sociology from New Delhi. Gender issues often catch her eyes and she likes to write about them in her personal blog. In her free time, she also likes to capture anything that catches her eyes.
Illustration: Uday Deb(Source: Times of India)