Parwati Bogati, a 21-year-old woman from Western Doti District in Nepal, died last week after she was forced to stay in a menstrual hut during her periods. Although the banishment to menstrual huts was banned in 2005, the tradition is still carried on in backward areas. The menstruation hut is windowless, with a very small gate and it is extremely difficult to live there.
“It is suspected that she died of suffocation. Since it is cold, she lit fire in her windowless hut and slept. The smoke couldn’t find way and she died,” police officer Lal Bahadur Dhami said.
Menstruation a taboo
There is nothing new in menstruation being considered a taboo. Such practice is not limited to Nepal. In November 2018, a 12-year-old girl, Vijaya from Anaikkadu village in Tamil Nadu died, after she was banished to a thatched outhouse because she was menstruating. The cyclone Gaja made a landfall and she died in it.
In another incident, Gauri Bayak, a 21-year-old girl, was found dead in the western district of Achham. These are a few of the cases that have been reported. There are scores of such incidents that take place but are not reported. The restrictions that come along with puberty, as we start bleeding, validate how it is still a taboo.
Though the Supreme Court last year lifted the ban on the entry of women of menstruating age at Sabarimala in Kerala, the outrage this generated among staunch devotees is a perfect example of how menstruation is a taboo. When two women – Bindu Ammini and Kanaka Durga – managed to enter the temple, the priest got the entire shrine cleansed, depicting how the normal bodily issues of women are viewed negatively.
Menstruation is something that is normal. Just because it is unique to females, doesn’t mean it is impure
Some common taboos
- Women are isolated during their periods in many backward areas. They are not allowed to be in any sort of social contact.
- Women are not allowed to face someone who is going for a good deed. They are not allowed to touch pickles, and have to eat simple food and sleep on floor.
- Women are not allowed to put on any makeup. They are banned from performing any type of puja.
- Since a woman is considered to be impure while on her periods, she is not allowed to enter kitchens and cook.
Initiatives to do away with the taboo
Considering the myths related with menstruation, it is very important to do away with the taboo. For this, there has been several initiatives. Some of them are-
Blood On My Hands
It is a documentary by Anandana Kapur, Manak Matiyani and Surabhi Saral. It deals with the stigmas related to puberty, particularly in India.
This is a social enterprise involved in the production and manufacture of compostable sanitary napkins.
Uger: A startup for Sustainable and Safe Menstruation
Uger not only provides awareness about menstruation and hygiene, but also spreads knowledge about the use of Synthetic Pads.
Social Media Efforts to Normalize Periods
- #TheHomelessPeriod hashtag on Twitter
- #HappyToBleed hashtag on Twitter
All said and done, menstruation is not something that needs to be connected to social and religious topics. It is something that is normal. Just because it is unique to females, doesn’t mean it is impure. It is the reason behind reproduction and we should consider it as a gift from God. A gift that makes her a ‘MOTHER’!
Anushika Srivastava is an Intern with SheThePeople.Tv