Why India Loathes its Menstruating Women: Cultural Taboos and Discriminatory Practices

India continues to loathe its menstruating women and a series of cultural taboos and discriminatory practices continue against them, these discriminatory practices deprive women of equal opportunities and scrutinise them.

We have entered the second decade of the 21st century and claim to have become as ‘modern’ as possible. But it cannot be said when it comes to menstrual norms and practices. Be it the period check at a Bhuj college or the Sabarimala temple row, we have shown little progress as a society. 

Teachers ‘check’ if women students are menstruating at Bhuj college

In a shocking incident at an all-women’s college, Shri Sahajanand Girls’ Institute situated at Bhuj in Gujarat, 68 undergraduate students were paraded to the washroom. The hostel administration complained to the principal regarding some girls entering the kitchen and going close to the temple while menstruating. The principal abused and insulted the students. Two of the students said that they were menstruating. Despite this, all the 68 hostellers were forced to remove their underwear so that it could be checked by women teachers.


To retain our initiative towards free spirited and independent journalism we require your support |Pay Now


Since the college is run by adherents of a religious sect, women students are forced to follow strict rules regarding menstruation. They are neither supposed to enter the temple or kitchen areas nor touch others while menstruating. It must also be noted that all of these 68 hostellers belong to very remote villages. 

What is the purpose of running an educational institution if students are subjected to such humiliation? This is not only degrading but also a violation of their bodily autonomy. The hostel administration cannot make such allegations in the first place; the question of such investigation on the part of the principal is all the more unacceptable. It reflects a dangerous patriarchal mindset where women are seen to be perpetuating what they ought to be resisting. 

When such taboos are openly practiced at this college, it seems highly unlikely that menstrual awareness workshops or sex education is provided over there. Such an incident at an educational institution which is supposed to talk about how such practices are regressive is shameful. There must be strict legal action against the principal and teachers involved. But it would take something more to rid them from such a psyche. 

Impure women and distance from the sacred

In a large number of homes, grandmothers, mothers and aunts forbid young girls from going to the temple while they are menstruating. They might be asked to sleep on the floor, not touch anybody and stay away from the pooja ghar or place of worship. Why is menstruation any different from any other bodily function such as digestion, excretion, or respiration? The notion of purity and impurity is Brahminical in nature as it calls for segregation, isolation and exclusion. It is the foundation on which the entire caste hierarchy is based. How can women be impure when they perform the most important function of procreation? The world would not have progressed had it not been for women. 

Menstruating women are barred from entering religious spaces such as a temple and its sanctum sanctorum. Despite Kerala being the country’s most developed state in terms of levels of education and literacy, the Sabarimala temple row proves that education does not necessarily make a society progressive. In spite of the court’s intervention, most people in Kerala are not ready to allow women aged 10 to 50 inside the temple. What would it take to change this?

The whisper around menstruation

Advertisements of sanitary napkins continue to show blue liquids instead of blood on the pads. When every woman on earth menstruates, why is there a taboo around it? Why is the name of a large sanitary napkin brand ‘whisper’? It is time to stop whispering and bring menstruation into our daily conversations. For how long will we keep using code words for genitalia and periods? That silence needs to be broken because it reinforces these very taboos and practices. It is women who need to first understand that it is normal and that there is nothing unclean or impure about it. Change is possible only when the conversation begins. 

Now that you are here...
From bottled water to oxygen cans, not even the basics are free in a market-driven world. Why then, do we take free and independent journalism for granted? We find ourselves at a time when more people like you, are reading and coming out in support of The New Leam’s independent, in-depth and throughly issue based journalism than ever before. From grassroot stories and field-reports, to in-depth analysis of the pertinent political issues of our times, to news on gender, culture and educational issues- The New Leam has been dedicated to bringing out stories that speak out the soul of India and take you beyond the propaganda-filled corridors of mainstream journalism in India. We have made an important choice of keeping our journalism free of vested political interests, commercial funding and influence of partisan stakeholders, so that we can bring forward news and stories based on facts and provide a platform where readers can find information with integrity and a journalism premised on honesty. 

Your support to The New Leam is your contribution towards giving a voice to the voiceless, going to the depths of issues that others shy away from and rigorously illuminating the flame of criticality and courage in dark times. We hope that you will come forward to support The New Leam today so that we can keep delivering quality-independent journalism to you and inform public opinion in the right direction. No matter how big or small your contribution may be, it is tremendously important. It takes only a moment, Support The New Leam now!


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *