10 Period Myths That Must Be Broken5 minute
When I was in college, I was hanging out with some of my classmates, and I noticed that a girl was feeling uncomfortable. I asked her openly that are you on periods and everyone's face was like they have seen an alien. The girl took me aside and asked me how you can say something like this publicly. And that's when I realize that this is how we have raised our girls. We have made them so guilty about periods that they don't want to talk about it.
The period is such a taboo subject that we are even scared of saying it aloud. So we came up with code names like lady problems. It has been around since ancient times, and we can witness in our history as well as our scriptures. You will get to see mentions like-
"Go away from women during periods because they are not clean."
"Whoever will touch her during the period will be unclean, and if you touch her, then you shall wash your clothes and take a bath."
"Contact with period blood will sour the wine. The crops will become barren. The seeds will dry up." And the list goes on...
A woman has around 500 periods in her lifetime. If we put it in an average, they go on bleeding about 3000 days in their lifetime. Taboos around periods in India is way broader. They are skipping school. They are forbidden from holy rituals. They are excluded from sports. For a few days every month, their life on hold.
Around 20 millions of girls drop out of school as soon as they start menstruating in India. And only 18% of women have access to sanitary pads in India. It is shocking to see the figures, but it is the truth.
Taboos around periods-
In India, taboos around periods are like the mother of all taboos. Some are so stupid and illogical that if you think about it, you will just laugh about it. But we have failed as a society to overcome such stupidity because we have never tried. Let's talk about the 10 taboos on periods which you will usually encounter-
- Celebrated yet an outcast- In some parts of south India as well northeast India, when a girl gets her first period, gets presents and are celebrated for this occasion. And still, they are barred from household works for a period of 3 nights.
- A menstruating woman is not allowed to enter the temple- Being born in a Hindu family, I had witnessed it month after month. When my cousin sisters were on periods, they were not allowed to be a part of any holy rituals. Now you can imagine how much shame it will bring to the girl that she will think and believe that she is not even accepted in God's house. She will hate herself for it.
- Nobody should touch a menstruating woman- I have heard this numerous times while growing up that I should not touch a girl or woman while she is on her period. One time I touched the hand of one of my sisters, and I was asked by my grandma to take a bath. Even I felt so enraged hearing such stupidity. I refused to do so. I got some scolding, but hey this is how you all should start in your family as well.
- Her touch will rot the pickle- Yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds that if she will touch pickle during her period, it will rot. And women follow it religiously. I still can't get my head around it and aliens must be laughing about it and what a weird mental virus we have.
- Don't go near the Tulsi Plant- The tulsi or basil is considered holy in Hinduism and woman cannot touch it while she is on her period. Even her shadow will kill the plant.
- Don't wash your hair and don't tie your hair- This is again one weird and illogical taboo that women should not wash their hair while she is on her period. She has to keep her hair open. There is no trail of this that what is the reason behind it but it is still get passed on by older women to younger girls.
- Living in exile- In some rural parts of India and Nepal, Girl lives in a shed outside the house while she is on her period. This practice is called "Chhaupadi". Sometimes it leads to the death of some women. In the first-ever case, there has been an arrest in Nepal for such practice in the first week of December 2019.
- A menstruating woman should not enter the kitchen- In Indian households, a woman cannot enter the kitchen if she is on her period. This is as stupid as it sounds. The food will become bad if she will touch them. This is so discriminatory. As she should be free to do whatever she wants while she is on her period.
- Virgins should not use tampons- India has so much preached about the virginity of a girl. In some rural part, there is still a virginity test before marriage to see that if a girl is a virgin or not. And that has started a taboo that if you use tampons, you will lose your virginity. Scientifically it is not true at all and tampons are not associated with virginity in any way. It is so absurd and shameful that we give so much importance to virginity.
- Buying Sanitary pads is embarrassing- There is so much shame associated with menstruation that women, as well as men, are embarrassed to buy sanitary pads or tampons. Even medical shops give it in wrapped paper or brown or black bags. Women never ask a male member of the family to buy them pads or tampons. This is how we have built our society.
It made no sense to me while I was processing these as a child, but Now I am an adult, and I can understand that these taboos are deeply rooted in our culture. It will not go away until we, as an individual will start opposing it. I am hopeful for the younger generations that they will not pass on these stupid taboos to the next generations. And the older women are also somewhat responsible for this and if they will start speaking up about it.
I believe these taboos will go away because it needs to go away.
Feel free to drop a comment on what type of taboo around periods you have witnessed while growing up.