Girl Starts #HappyToBleed Campaign To Tackle Menstruation Taboo In India
The Debrief: Menstruation in India is often viewed as unclean and impure. Student Nikita Azad is fighting back.
Spare a thought if you will for the women of India who, in 2015, still face stigma over a little thing like getting their period.
The Sabarimala Temple, a Hindu pilgramage site located in Kerala in southern India, is one of many temples in the country that don’t allow women in – for fear of them being on their period.
Recently, the president of this particular temple was asked about it and he said he’d think about it when a machine was invented that could tell if women were on their periods. No really.
‘A time will come when people will ask if all women should be disallowed from entering the temple thoroghout the year,’ he said. ‘These days there are machines that can scan bodies and check for weapons. 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.’
According to Menstrupedia, a teen-friendly website run by four Indian girls working to break down the taboo of menstruation in India, menstruating women can often be seen as ‘impure, dirty, sick or even cursed.’ Girls can be prevented from going to school and purchasing sanitary products can be problematic, putting women’s health at risk.
Now, student Nikita Azad is joining the fight against the taboo with her campaign #HappyToBleed which she launched as ‘a counter attack against the sexist statement given by Devaswom chief, Sabrimala Temple, Kerala.’
The campaign urges women to upload pictures of themselves to Facebook with a sign (or as many are choosing, a sanitary towel) bearing the words ‘Happy To Bleed’.
The use of the word ‘Happy’ was an important point for Nikita. ‘Happy, as a word, is used as a satire, a taunt, a comment, on patriarchal forces which attach the understanding of purity-impurity of women with menstruation. Also, since menstruation is criminalised whose perpetrator is woman, #happy as a tag breaks with this hegemonic belief.’
She explains too, the dangers of not fighting the taboo. ‘It is important to mention that such statements/practices affect working class women, and Dalit women the most. A study by AC Neilsen informs us that 88% women resort to shocking alternatives, like unsanitised cloth, ashes and husk hand, while 70% women cannot afford to use sanitary napkins.
‘It also states that around 23% girls actually drop out of school after they start menstruating. Thus, the statement/practices add to the misery of these women, who are already under class and caste oppression. Already a lot of discrimination is done in our society along caste lines, like keeping separate utensils, opposing inter-caste marriages etc, such a statement intensifies gender-caste oppression whereby a community is tagged as “impure”.’
Since the campaign began on Friday, hundreds of girls have got involved across social media. Here’s hoping it will make people sit up and take notice.
To people who think ‘Menstruating woman is Impure’ I would say ‘If woman didn’t bleed you wouldn’t have been born!’ #HappyToBleed— Devika S. Deshmukh (@DevikaD17) November 24, 2015
#HappyToBleed so relieved that people are questioning the sexist ideology that has prevailed for centuries.— Keren Benjamin (@Kerenbenjamin25) November 23, 2015
Only an incorrect mindset believes a menstruating woman is impure. #HappyToBleed— Ravinder Singh (@_RavinderSingh_) November 23, 2015
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