Menstruation is normal physiological process which takes place each month among girls and women of reproductive age. The major symptom is bleeding through vaginal canal for 4 to 5 days, usually along with dysmenorrhoea i.e lower abdominal pain and back ache in some cases. This is what a young girls hear about when she first menstruates.
So let’s see how society views this normal phenomenon. In my patriarchal society, it is pronounced with various synonyms which also signifies a single notion of untouchability.
The vary term in my community is also used for the so called Dalit communities. During this 5 days period you are basically follow a whole set of rituals which forbids a girl to do various tasks like going to kitchen, doing puja and even entering the room, staying inside their rooms, not to see the male members of the house, avoiding water sources and list goes on. As if they are some kinds of germs which must be kept away as much as possible or they might infect you. But these are in the most educated communities and families. In rural parts, menstruating girls and women are kept isolated from their families, social lives and their daily activities.
Now tell me how does this all things fit in the term #normal??
When I had my first period, I was fifteen, quiet late actually, all of my friends and cousins already had their menarche. So, my grandmother was very happy and my mother too, and then it all began. Mother started taking with my father, where should we send her for this ritual in which after menarche girls are kept away from their homes for 5 days minimum. I was not at that age to defend myself, but that literally made me very sad, which eventually turned into a big smile when my father snapped at my mom saying, no we won’t, because that doesn’t make any sense at current time period. He further insisted, Keep her safe here and teach her menstrual hygiene. Neither were there a day when I was asked to stay away from kitchen or water place but yes I was not allowed to do worship and enter in room where worship is done. It was my first Dashain after my menstruation, I got period on day of Dashain ( biggest festival in Hindu religion) but I revolted and received blessings and tika and this continued to coming years when I put bhaitika in my brother’s forehead.
I was a conqueror as I was able to crack the pseudo-normatic social system at my house but it was limited in the major religious rituals. Then gradually I extended my actions in daily religious rituals and big religious celebrations.
Every time I reflect how I got that inner power and motivation to revolt against those superstitions? I always looked for rational for all the activity I do in my life and all those activities which seems irrational I just don’t follow being a blind follower.
How a person (girl and women and trans man) become impure for any natural phenomenon?
So, let’s think about the answers we are provided with, and at-least keep on asking questions until and unless we are convinced.
Sometimes there may come a point where you will be scolded saying it a sin and a crime. But then, its upto you to use the belief system of the family and manipulate the ideas to convince your grandmothers or anyone against. And one thing that is always to be kept in mind is first of all you must believe that you are not going to follow any false ideas that might limit you or try and control you.
In my understanding, these deep-rooted cultures might have been evolved through various understanding and ideologies. The concept of staying inside the room, not touching or seeing male members, not entering the kitchens and staying away from temple’s might be the actual remedy and relief for the women back then. Like the unavailability of the proper sanitary pads and painkillers would have created a real mess due to the bloods and women stayed away so they won’t need to see any one especially the males as they might be really embarrassed in the menstrual period. Staying away from kitchen and other household chores would provide her rest during the vulnerable and uncomfortable days for proper rest and avoiding weakness. And in my understanding those were the days when men and women were more spiritually aligned and frequently visited temples during the day. Again, to avoid the distance travelling and the chance of getting attacked by the wild animals attracted by the smell of blood could be life threatening, thus they stayed away from the temples. These are the justifications I derived and which satisfied my questions regarding the rituals.
And today we have well facilitated environment regarding the menstrual hygiene which is very important to avoid various reproductive organs related infectfions and besides limiting anyone on the foundation of any beliefs is not convincing.
And to conclude, will use the same first statement saying , “menstruation is a normal biological process” and requires extra care and support not the taboos and stigmas.
But before changing other’s we need to convince ourselves. If you are not convinced you will not be convinced by others values, which may be abide by stigmas. We cannot change the whole society at once but if we all start changing one home at a time, we can change society together.
Menstrual stigmas and taboos are entrenched in the culture we are living. Thus, we should work together to make our life dignified, and our menstruation dignified which is the source of life.
Blog by: Garima Nepali
Garima Nepali is a Youth Champion at YoSHAN