By Harshali Nagrale
‘When she bleeds the smells I know change colour. There is iron in her soul on those days. She smells like a gun (J.Winterson,2019). India is a diversified country with different religious people loitering "together". Each religion has different and unique 'terms and conditions' that can also be said as "Borderline" designed around women. The borderline is so well defined and deeply rooted in the stakeholder i.e. the women and all other genders who get periods has caught their mind so deadly that they can't even think rationally about religion and how blindly they were following it. The best illustration to prove this fact is menstruation in India.
The reproduction cycle in the female primates is called the menstrual cycle. The first menstruation begins at puberty and is called menarche. In human females, menstruation is repeated at an average interval of about 28/29 days, and the cycle of events starting from one menstruation till the next one is called the Menstruation cycle. (NCERT, 2019)
You may have heard that a woman is ill or is dirty because she is having her periods. This is not true. In fact, it is a sign that her body is functioning healthily and well. Some girls and women may have pain and cramps during periods but it is not the same as being ill. How menstruation occurs in most wome? An ovary releases one egg or ovum every on menstrual cycle (the time between two consecutive periods).
Also, during every cycle the womb (uterus) prepares itself to receive a fertilised egg by thickening the lining of its walls. If fertilisation has taken place (sperm meets ovum), then the thickened lining is required to nurture the growing baby. If it has not happened, then there is no further need of lining. So, the body sheds off the lining which comes out through the vagina as bits of lining, blood, clots and mucous. This usually takes about
Menstruation 2-8 days. is regulated by the hormonal system, which may affect energy levels and moods. That is why sometimes before and during periods, some women may experience mood swings, pain and tiredness.
As the blood flow during the periods is just a part of the body which flows out through vaginal outlet due to no fertilization then this statement that "menses blood is impure" become biologically erroneous.
A lot of taboos are attached around periods in India. In some parts of the county, girls are kept outside the house because they believe girls are polluted at that time. In a few states, the girls are asked to stay away from all the male members of the household because she might make everyone impure. While in the southern states periods are celebrated with lots of good food, gifts and throwing big party when the girl gets her first periods. But, the reason behind celebrating it is that- the family declares by throwing the party that the girl is now eligible for marriage and she can bare babies, ie. A women's purpose served!!!
Thus each tradition has a clear or hidden motto in it, we need to think deeply on it.
Religion and Menstruation Norms
Talking about religion, every region brings into the world a numerous speculate such as in Hindu religion, the women are not allowed to touch anything in the kitchen; not to go in temples and not even allowed to sleep on the bed. They are not allowed to water plants, ask them to sit at a corner, are not encouraged to go to school. Any women if touches used pads she might do black magic, a such beliefs are tollowed blindly in India. Also, they must rest, and do no work; they cannot comb their hair or bathe. They cannot participating in a religious ceremony and get married while having their periods. Trips to religious places are scheduled so that no woman of fertile age is menstruating during that time, also sometimes if any such doubt, then they give her medical pills to postpone her periods.
In some tribal communities, it is believed that women must stay in a special hut during the course of their menstrual period and should not cook for their husband.
Where as we see a different culture in Judaism as passing objects between each other, sharing a bed (most couples have two separate beds, which can be pulled apart during Niddah), sitting together on the same cushion of a couch, eating directly from the wife's leftovers, smelling her perfume, gazing upon her clothing (whether or not it has been worn), or listening to her sing (Steinberg,1997).
In Islamic culture, “impure” (i.e., menstruating) women are to be avoided by men. Islam does not consider a menstruating woman to possess any kind of “contagious uncleanness” (Azeem, 1995). Islamic law treats menstruation as impure for religious functions only (Engineer, 1987).
In Buddhism which is not a religion but a way of life, does'nt have any such rituals or superstitions related to menstruating women. The women are free and they make their own choices depending on their mood and health. In Buddhism, menstruation is generally viewed as “a natural physical excretion that women have to go through on a monthly basis, nothing more or less” (Buddha Dharma Education Association, 2004). Unfortunately, due to Sanskritization from Hindu religion and practice has carried over into some categories of Buddhist culture.
Society and Menstruation
#Myth 1: Periods blood is Impure
Period blood doesn’t reject body fluids or the body’s way of flushing out toxins. Think of it as evolved vaginal secretion — there’s a little bit of blood, uterine tissue, mucus lining, and bacteria. But it doesn’t change whether or not to have sex, and it doesn’t mean conditions are less than ideal down there. Period blood is very different from blood that moves continuously through the veins. In fact, it’s less concentrated blood. It has fewer blood cells than ordinary blood (Y. Christe & D.Chaunie,2019)
In some cultures, women bury their cloths used during menstruation to prevent them being used by evil spirits. In some religions menstrual blood is believed to be dangerous, and a malevolent person can do harm to a menstruating woman or girl by black magic. It is also believed that a woman can use her menstrual blood to impose her will on a man. Many a women during their periods do not go to temple because they feel it is dirty. Just think about it? Is it so? May be its not. If God has given periods to women then why do they will discriminate women on the basis of periods? Does female goddess too use to get periods? If so, then how can they be so cruel for right of women?? Or the laws made by man to rule women??
#Myth 2: Periods are shameful
If we stop thinking that periods are gross, shameful, and dirty, then perhaps it wouldn’t be a humanitarian crisis. But the truth is, we have a long history of embarrassment to overcome. It’s so ingrained in our behavior that being put on blast for having our period doesn’t help. We shouldn’t have to feel like we need to whisper about needing a tampon or pad or hide a tampon up our sleeve. Periods aren’t anything out of the ordinary, and neither is talking about them. Let’s do our part to change this cycle and ditch the stigma. After all, periods and the balance of hormones are what help us stay young! (Y. Christe & D.Chaunie,2019)
#Myth 3: Religion and its Taboo
Cultural norms and religious taboos on menstruation are often compounded by traditional associations with evil spirits, shame and embarrassment surrounding sexual reproduction.
#Myth 4: You can only enter a place of prayer once you’ve washed your hair on or after the fourthday.
#Myth 5: You must wash your hair on the first day of your period to clean yourself completely.
#Myth 6: If you wash your hair, your flow will be less and it will affect your fertility later in life. Some Sad Such Facts about India : the taboos about menstruation present in many societies impact on girls’ and women's emotional state, mentality and of girls in India lifestyle and most importantly, health. Large numbers of girls in many less economically developed countries drop out of school when they begin menstruating. This includes over 23%. (Clue,2017)
#Myth 7: Only Women gets period:
Not every women gets her period and not every female who gets a period considers themselves a women. Transgender man may still get their periods, just as transgender women might not have periods. Menstruation isn’t always just a “Women’s” issue. It’s a human issue. (Y. Christe & D. Chaunie,2019)
Social media such as Television serials, and T.V Ads also promote rituals and half-knowledge regarding periods. In most of the TV daily soaps, specially directed by Ekta kapoor, which are watched by most of females, promoted rituals around the genders which do not get periods and get various doubts regarding it.
Once in a conservation with my colleague on Periods, I found her even being a woman herself was rigid in her misconceptions about periods. She argued that, ' how come someone go to a temple when you are leaking inside your sari'? The temple is a very holy place and God do not appreciate such impurity. Her statement does not surprise me as most of the people are brought up with this understanding. But i am concerned to pass on same beliefs to the next generation by them.
The problem is not only with the religion, culture and diversity but also due to lack of proper sex education. Education plays a very crucial role in the life of youth. Even in most of the schools, teachers do not teach such topics properly in the class, especially when it is a co.ed school. Furthermore, if the teacher has any biases regarding the topic then while delivering the same, they might share their myths around it too. Due to which the girls do not get proper knowledge about it and the boys get a wrong understanding from their mates or from improper websites. Hence, it is very important to teach such topics in the class properly and frankly to eradicate such rituals and myths.
Hence, there is a huge need of rational teachers in the society which currently our country is lacking around. From my professional work experience in the schools at the governmental sector I have seen students following various different superstitious practices in the schools during their periods, which make all of us to put in a question mark on the current education system.
In the conclusion, I strongly feel that it’s very important to have proper knowledge about menstruation. People should not promote such myths around the society. Talking about it at whatever platform is very crucial. The time when the TV serials will start breaking the norms and initiating good content on social issues such as periods, health and hygiene, and so on then it might make people think about the social issues rationally. I also feel It’s very important to educate both girls and boys at the same and it should start from the house itself and schools compulsorily. Periods are natural and it has nothing to do with any religion. Awareness programs need to be supported and must be organized better by the government atevery village and school level, organizations working on periods need to be given support. Let us create some space by understanding each other and destroying such myths so as to create an understanding environment around all of us! Therefore it’s very important to take menstruation as a natural process and it has nothing to be ashamed of.
Harshali Nagrale SWAERO,
School Academic Consultant at TSWREIS, Telangana.