Periods Are Culturally Stigmatised, Yet Why Do Women Follow Period Tradition

The challenge of addressing the socio-cultural beliefs about period traditions complicates further when girls have little knowledge and understanding of menstruation and reproductive health.

Snehal Mutha
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The menstrual cycle is considered taboo and often stigmatised. This stigma is formed from the religious regulations and built up due to traditional beliefs, which mean menstruating women are impure. Periods are assumed to be a bad omen and expected that bleeding women should be barred from performing a religious activity or even going nearby the god's idol or temple.

In some cases, especially in rural India and a few communities in urban areas, follow the tradition of separating menstruating women for three days. Although, the degree of following the rules varies from family to family. Every one of us might have come across these stigmatised practises, it is not new. However, surprising is how women follow it irrespective of having a rational idea that periods are not bad.

Women are well aware of why periods occur, but few women are ignorant that they have been stigmatised under the pretext of religious rules. I spoke to a few educated women and tried to understand why the cycle of superstitious beliefs and myths coming out of religion surrounding periods is not challenged and broken.

Period and Religious Myth, What Menstruating Women Has To Say

Gudiya Rathore, a 27-year-old financial professional, pointed out, "there is no valid reason to justify periods as impure and force me to sit separately. But I do that now, never did at my maternal home, but doing it at my in-law's home because it is a rule. I have to do it as I have to stay in the same society."

Rathore is doing it out of compulsion. Rathore, while menstruating stays in a different room, keeps utensils separately, and sleeps on the mat. There are many like Rathore who practise such traditions every month. Many of them especially in current times don't even want to sit separately during periods but are forced to do so. People usually justify this ritual by saying it is a resting period for women as they bleed heavily. One needs to understand this has become now compulsion.

Rules need to change with time, with changing needs. What if a woman doesn't want to sit separately and treat her period day like a regular day? Why sleeping on a bed instead of a mat can't be considered resting? These seem like tiny issues, but they are not. Religion, irrespective of which one it is, men have created it in a form that has been impartial to women. It governs when women should rest.


Nehal Patil, a senior accountant, emphasised on ancient times and rules on periods then. She said, "I never questioned why I should not go near a temple in my periods. But I do believe everything in our culture has a justified answer. Nothing in our ancient culture is baseless. Due to modernisation and westernisation, people are challenging Indian culture." Patil's stand is of believing culture irrespective of its prejudices. Many women do too. These beliefs are also given by patriarchy, and women are presumed to be the wheel of them. Men don't teach a newly menstruating girl about these rituals. It is the mother, sisters, or some aunt who passes them on to their younger ones. And women just do it without questioning it. The challenge of addressing the socio-cultural beliefs about menstruation complicates further when girls have little knowledge and understanding of menstruation and reproductive health.

One attitude for following this ritual is, avoiding conflicts. Vrushali Kedari, a journalist, said, "I am well aware of what goes behind periods, I also don't understand the relationship of god and periods. How periods hurt god. But sometimes to avoid conflicts just do it. Who will keep fighting on every belief with elders." In one sense, Kedari is right! There are so many things to fight on. Period adds to, sometimes women like Rathore, and Kedari, don't inform of their periods and mix up even when periods are up.

Another opinion came from Poonam Gundecha, a resin artist. She said, "You are conditioned in a way that even if you think it is wrong and stigmatising women, it becomes a habit. You cannot get rid of habits. It is embedded in your heart all the fear. It doesn't go off easily. Even If I am free of all the familial duties I will still follow to sit aside during cycles because my beliefs tell me to do so."

Most females menstruate and everyone knows it. Still, they believe to be impure, dirty, and tainted along with illogical rumours and myths. These are tightened by the string of religion. One really needs to ask themselves how periods are bad or embarrassing for others. Most of the time these ideas about menstruation exclude women and girls from many aspects of social and cultural life. But with the blindfolding of rituals, culture, and religion, we women fail to acknowledge them wrong and hence continue the cycle. I hope one day this blindfold is removed and every girl respects their periods and does not treat them as a bad omen. Only this can stop stigmatising the periods.

Suggested Reading- Are You PMSing? Stop Saying These 5 Things To Us During Periods

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