For most modern urban dwellers the idea that period huts still exist in our country may sound outlandish. But we are a society which is yet to get rid of our baggage of menstruation taboos. So it doesn’t come across as a surprise that residents of Ghurchum village in Uttarakhand allegedly built a period hut to confine menstruating women. It is ironic that the villagers chose to use the money meant to develop their village to do so.
- A village in Uttarakhand diverted government funds to build period huts.
- In the name of traditions and beliefs, numerous women still endure untouchability and isolation during periods.
- Our deeply-patriarchal society still manages to make us feel inferior and lowly for a normal physiological function.
- Unless people in our society, stop seeing menstruation, as unclean, women will have to keep fighting period untouchability and isolation.
We are a society which is yet to get rid of our baggage of menstruation taboos.
According to The Times Of India, this village in Champawat district of Uttarakhand allegedly diverted funds allotted to the village Panchayat for development work, to build a hut to confine menstruating women. This comes on the heels of the news of a woman and her two children suffocating to death in a menstrual hut in Nepal. Which shows that the practice of isolating menstruating women still exists. In the name of traditions, numerous women still endure untouchability and isolation, all because they have a uterus.
This is demoralising and agonising but not shocking. Think of every time you’ve found yourselves hesitating to enter the kitchen or any place of worship when on your periods and you’ll know how big a deal menstrual untouchability is in our society, even in 2019. Our deeply-patriarchal society still manages to make us feel inferior and lowly for a normal physiological function. For some, it is in the form of passing guilt or hesitation. For others, it is in the form of untouchability and or staying at home during periods, so as not to offend the local deity by not crossing his path. As for numerous others, it comes in the form of being outcast from their own homes, to a shack with meagre provisions.
Were these women provided food, or did they have to fend for themselves? Did they have access to hot water and blankets during this winter season?
Were these women provided food, or did they have to fend for themselves? Did they have access to hot water and blankets during the winter season? Or even to sanitary napkins? There are so many questions which cross my mind, but I do not want to know the answers. I know they will only bring further heartbreak. What will it take to break the social stigma around periods, which stifles millions of women in this country? Which tears them away from their own homes and comfortable beds to stone cold huts and isolated existence?
The fact that an entire village thought it was okay to use the money for development of the village to build a hut to outcast menstruating women, shows how different our definitions of progress are. Perhaps it is a way ahead for these women to have access to permanent quarters during periods, instead of living in dilapidated and unsafe surroundings. Who knows what horrific conditions menstruating women of the said village had to endure, before this quarter was built?
Menstrual untouchability is a big roadblock in the upliftment of women in India.
Unless people in our society stop seeing menstruation as unclean, women will have to keep fighting period untouchability and isolation. The solution to this problem is not putting locks on period huts. Or imposing heavy fines on people. But to liberate them from their orthodox beliefs. To educate them how dangerous it is to isolate menstruating women, or force them to live off frugally for five days every month. Menstrual untouchability is a big roadblock in the upliftment of women in India. Instead of building huts that embody these regressive beliefs, there is a need to dismantle them, one taboo at a time.
Picture Credit: womenpla.net
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.