A new campaign ‘LetsTalkPeriods’ caught my attention, the campaign claims to raise awareness among women and the society about the superstitions followed blindly during menstruations. The video uploaded has an Adivasi girl talking about how they are shunned into a separate hut during periods and how she raised her voice against it all and fought it out.
At the first look it looks inspiring and refreshing but one deeper thought into the whole matter left me pondering why those girls were sent off to a separate hut? Is it because of blind superstition or is it because of lack of sanitation facilities, lack of education and educational facilities among these tribal folks? Why is it that these Adivasis remain as adivasis even after 65years of independence, why have they been denied of the privileges that any urban educated girl would get? It is interesting to note that these campaigns are not aiming at facilitating any sanitary aid or building toilets nor are fighting for setting up of educational institutes here but are only offering a suggestive malice towards a practice that is of late being categorically classified as a superstition.
Periods or menses to a woman is a subtle reminder of her feminine self and of course there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about it in fact in South India as soon as a girl attains puberty it is tom tomed amongst the whole circle of relatives and neighbourhood and celebrated but unlike that fair urban girl sporting a white outfit who can trek, jump and dance in that sanitary napkin ad, in reality girls do experience an unpleasant inconvenience varying from cramps, aches, anger and mood swings during those days and this is no big secret. It was for this reason that in olden days women who otherwise had their hands full with household chores were barred from their routines to give them some rest on those inconvenient days.
It was a practice devised to save young women from monstrous mom in laws and mountainous house hold chores and the unhygienic intercourses during chums. The religious ceremonies involved long hours of sitting which was not practical for a chumming woman during those days when no modern sanitary aid was available. The bacteria and the stench without proper cleaning facilities coined the whole affair as ‘impure’.
It is also believed that the temples are places with positive energies created by the vibrations of holy chanting and the aura of menstruating women emit negative energies hence the taboo to enter temples during periods.
The taboo using the ‘dirty’ word was probably embroiled and cooked up to avoid tiresome cooking and elaborate rituals which are usually implicit with all ceremonies and festivals.
Some rural and urban households still practice it willingly true to its purpose where the woman is relieved from all her routine chores and the other members of the family keep the house functional, in case of nuclear families the husband and the kids learn to care and also understand what it takes to run the routine show. This mechanism is practiced to simply give her a breather when she needs it most but unfortunately like many other practices even this one today is deviated and misunderstood in most homes making it irrelevant in the modern times.
Also education, science and modern methods of hygiene have eased out women from this menstrual untouchability.
Although most women today do not follow it in its innate sense and freely enter the kitchen to slog their day out they still succumb to the self-imposed taboos of their own mind set of staying away from poojas and festivals not because it is dirty but because it is uncomfortable and considered immoral to disrespect the sanctum of spirituality.
But like I said it is still only a matter of choice and there is nothing big to rebel about it when you have all the other 25days to pray and worship, if at all something should be rebelled it should be about the meagre participation of men in the household chores, it should be about the poor educational and medical facilities available so that people can make their own choice.
The once super mechanism introduced in the institute of the family has evolved to become a superstition today only because of unscrupulous venomous folks who have used this practice to restrict and harass their own womenfolk mindlessly without understanding the core value of why this system was introduced in the first place.
It is another thing that in spite of being one among the modern day crop of English speaking, culture questioning rebellious women I would still like to become a little superstitious if I were to be given a good break of 5days in a month with nothing at all to do and simply accept all delicate services at my command but alas my family is not superstitious!
When this custom is prevalent across rural and urban parts why is it that only tribal areas where education and spiritual orientations are low owing to extreme poverty and underdevelopment are selected for campaigning, why don’t they knock the doors of upper caste clusters where it is more prevalent to campaign against such practices? If at all they want to break myths and empower and liberate women truly then why don’t they talk about Hijab?
One can only hope that it is not a disguised missionary sponsored proselytizing package offered under the celebrated banner of social service, awareness and upliftment programs triggering cultural and religious revulsion when the actual problem lies elsewhere hidden in the paucity of educational and economic progress because social uplifting can be achieved only by equipping our women to make their own choice.