In India, there is basically silence around women’s health, and that too when concerned with “MENSTRUATION”. More than highlighting the scientific facts, Indians make it sure to pass the stories of myths and baseless believes from one generation to the next. Some cultural beliefs regarding periods are not just weird. They can also bar women from education, jobs, and overall equality. Let us throw some lights on these long prevailing myths.
1. Women are not allowed into kitchen during periods.
The most famous myth, women contaminate the food and all the utensils if they enter the kitchen when on periods. Like seriously, many people eat food without washing their hands- ok !!, but a clean and hygeinic lady wishes to enter the kitchen but is on periods, gets a big NO, NO !!! While I’m all for more boys and men taking on household chores so that girls in India can get an education, this myth doesn’t help with that.
2. Women cannot take part in any sort of social and cultural activities.
During the monthly menstrual cycle, women are asked to sit alone in a corner rather than enjoying a laugh with their group. It is believed that during menstruation, women are constantly dissipating energy from their bodies. Most religious chants are meant to balance out the energies in our body. However, this would interfere with the natural losing of energy that must happen in menstruating women to prevent excessive energy build-up. Hence, menstruating women are told to keep away from auspicious and happy occasions
3. Women aren’t allowed to enter temple.
The concocted reason behind not allowing women’s entry in temple is that menstruating women are so powerful, that their offering to God drowns out the offerings of everyone else present in the room. (Aren’t their Goddesses in temple?)
4. Sharks will attack women on their periods.
Well, Do sharks really get attracted to women when on periods!! Finally someone accepts women with periods!! Sharks are not attracted to red dye or blood from menstruation. There’s no data to support menstruation attracts sharks.
5. Physical relation/ intercourse with men will make them “sick”.
This myth in itself is “sick”ening. Myth number four says that women cannot interact with or touch men because men will become sick by touching an “unclean” woman. Even stats prove that this myth is so widely followed that 20% of women in rural India do not talk to male members of the family, when on periods.
6. Women should “purify” themselves before taking up any work.
This myth catches up its significance from the time of Bible. According to Old Testament of the Bible menstruating women are unclean for seven days (Leviticus 12). A women finished menstruating until then anything that she touched would be considered as unclean.
7. Women can’t water plants while menstruating.
In many orthodox families, women are not allowed to water plants when on periods because probably a woman on period “contaminates” the water and will also cause the flowers to dry up (seriously?).
8. The pickle rotten on coming in contact with a menstruating lady.
Myth carries that a women on period releases a smell which causes it to rot pickles.
9. Girls aren’t allowed to take part during first few days of the menstrual cycle.
Water is considered the purest resource by Hindus. Hence to avoid and prevent water from getting polluted, women are asked not to take bath for few days when on periods.
10. Treated as untouchable, asked to live separately in a “seclusion hut”.
Baseless belief reaches it heights, when women are asked to live in a hut made from thatched roof and mud just because they are a victim of a god gifted biological process!! This has proved to be highly fatal for many ladies as around 20% of women living in this hut die either through snake bite or disease which they get contacted with due to unhealthy environment.
11. Practising your art during your monthly cycle, will rob you off of your talent.
The myth says that if you practice your art when on period, you will slowly lose the talent you have inherited !! (This myth gives me he’art’ attack!)
Lastly, following any of the above rituals or practices is a personal choice. Either one can carry forward the legacy of myths or move forward to educate the world and break the silence and shame hovering around this topic.