IMPACT

Indian Women Fight Menstruation Stigmas With #HappyToBleed Campaign

"You are here because we bleed."

Menstruating women who have been banned from religious institutions are now making their periods public to fight the overwhelming stigma.

As part of its ancient custom, the hilltop temple of Sabarimala in Kerala, India doesn’t permit women of reproductive age to enter, Reuters reported. But when Prayar Gopalakrishnan, president of the temple’s board, recently told reporters that he would consider lifting the ban if there were a “machine” that could determine if a woman were menstruating or not, advocates took to social media to fight the notion that periods make a woman “impure.”

"There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the 'right time' for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside,"Gopalakrishnan said, according to media reports.

Spurred by an open letter written by activist Nikita Azad, supporters pushed back against Gopalakrishnan's statement using the hashtag #HappyToBleed.

Gopalakrishnan told Reuters that his comments were taken out of context and that the temple would not consider reversing the ban since it’s been the "custom since ages.”

While Sabarimala is one of a few Hindu temples that bars all women of reproductive age, a number of myths surrounding a period’s “damaging” effects remain in Indian society.

For example, Indian women and girls who are menstruating might be instructed to stay away from cooking because there's a risk that they could “pollute” the food. Some believe that they can spoil a pickled vegetable with just the touch of their hands. 

These myths are still so prevalent in society that Menstrupedia.com, an activism site, has an entire section dedicated to dispelling menstruation myths. 

Those who have gotten involved in the #HappyToBleed campaign have questioned the religious leaders’ authority in banning women and in deeming the natural bodily function impure.

Azad writes:

"You have mocked the entire women community by tagging menstruation as an impure activity. But, at the same time, you have claimed a temple made by my fellow brothers, sisters as your private ancestral property. By which authority, do you call Sabrimala temple, your temple? By what authority, do you decide that I cannot enter the temple?"

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