MENSTRUATION: STILL A TABOO?

“WE ALL ARE HERE IN THE WORLD DUE TO MENSTRUAL BLOOD AND STILL IT IS CONSIDERED IMPURE”.

A MENSTRUAL TABOO is any SOCIAL TABOO concerned with MENSTRUATION. The word “MENSTRUATION” is etymologically related to “MOON”. The term “MENSTRUATION” and “MENSES” are derived from the LATIN Mendis(MONTH). MENSTRUATION is a phenomenon unique to girls. Also referred to as “monthly”,”date”,”problem”,”time”or,”monthly birthday” amongst others, is a natural biological process that all women regularly undergo during a major period of their lives. MENSTRUATION is the natural part of reproductive cycle in which blood from the UTERUS exists through the VAGINA. It is a natural process that first occurs in girls usually between the age of 11 and 14 years and is one of the indicators of onset of PUBERTY, among them. Despite, being a phenomenon unique to girls, this has always been surrounded by MYTHS, SECRECY, and TABOOS that exclude women from many aspects of SOCIO-CULTURAL life. All around the World, and throughout history WOMEN have been shamed, sequestered, and medicalised for bleeding regularly. Such TABOOS about MENSTRUATION present in many societies, impact on girl’s and women’s emotional state, mentality, lifestyle, and most importantly, health!

In INDIA, even mere mention of the TOPIC has been a taboo in the past and even to this date. Culturally, in many parts of INDIA, Menstruation is still considered to be IMPURE and DIRTY. The origin of this myth dates back to the VEDIC time,and is often been linked to INDRA’S SLAYING OF VRITRAS. Women in the HINDU FAITH, are prohibited from participating in normal life while MENSTRUATING. She must be purified before she is allowed to return to her family and her day to day chores of her life. Many girls and women are subject to restrictions in their daily lives while MENSTRUATING. Not entering the “PUJA ROOM” is one of the major restrictions on URBAN GIRLS and WOMEN whereas NOT ENTERING KITCHEN is among RURAL GIRLS while MENSTRUATING.

MENSTRUATING GIRLS and WOMEN are also restricted from offering PRAYERS and TOUCHING HOLY BOOKS. The underlying basis for this myth is also the CULTURAL BELIEFS of IMPURITY associated with MENSTRUATION. It is further believed that MENSTRUATING WOMEN are UNHYGIENIC and UNCLEAN and hence the food they prepare and handle are contaminated and no one else can have it. In some cultures, its believed that a women should avoid sleeping with her husband during MENSTRUATION. It may sound ridiculous as many modern women have also seen it following.

Interestingly, in ASIA, including INDIA such beliefs are still practiced. However, there seems to be no logical or scientific explanation behind this behaviour. In some parts of INDIA, some strict dietary restrictions are also followed during MENSTRUATION such as, sour food like curd, pickles, tamarind are usually avoided by MENSTRUATING GIRLS and WOMEN. It is believed that such food will disturb or stop the MENSTRUAL flow. In some parts of KARNATAKA and MAHARASHTRA, a prevalent practice is of MENSTRUATING WOMEN living in a different room amd restricting their daily activities. Where as in some parts, perceptions of HINDUISM centre on notions of purity and pollution. All women regardless of their Social Caste, incur pollution through the bodily process of MENSTRUATION. Such TABOOS about MENSTRUATION present in many societies impact on girl’s and women’s emotional state, mentality, lifestyle and most importantly health.

Its interesting that so much embarrassment, awkwardness, and shame surround a NATURAL BODILY FUNCTION Experienced by half the population at some point in their lives. On one hand, many SANITARY NAPKIN ADVERTISEMENTS encourage women to “touch the pickle” and continue pursuing their interests like playing BASKETBALL, FOOTBALL, DANCE, but on the other hand, our traditions and customs restrict these activities. This creates a confusion among ADOLESCENT GIRLS and if they try to question this, they don’t always receive an answer. We don’t hide toilet paper away, yet some women get flustered if a TAMPON or SANITARY NAPKIN drops out of their handbag. WOULDN’T YOU FIND THIS RIDICULOUS?

And yet, that’s what we do all the time with SANITARY PRODUCTS, as though the evidence that we have PERIODS, is something to be ashamed of!