Sixteen-year-old Shivani has been warned against entering temples or reciting mantras (sacred verses) during the four to five days when she bleeds. When the Betul teenager tried to convince her family against the unfounded age-old belief, they called her an “atheist.”
“During periods, my grandmother treats me like a person suffering from communicable disease. I can’t recite mantras or eat ‘prasad’,” she told HT.
Shivani is not the only girl who has been told to mindlessly follow the proscription during menstruation.
According to volunteers and social activists, working to create awareness about menstruation in Madhya Pradesh, to pray or enter a religious place during menstruation is still considered by many as an act of apostasy and attempts to educate people about the myth associated with menstrual cycle is considered a sin.
“A girl can’t even touch her family members who are going for worship during menstruation. They also can’t enter the prayer room as menstruation is considered an abnormality and a disease,” said Shahdol anganwadi worker Santoshi Yadav. Yadav was in Bhopal to attend a programme organised by the women and child development department to mark Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28 and spread the message that a woman is not sick, impure or dirty during menstruation.
Sharing her experience, Budhni’s anganwadi worker Kiran Malviya, said: “Several people accused us of creating nuisance when we asked which scripture preaches that a woman cannot touch holy books or worship during periods.”
The problem, they said, would continue till women treated menstruation as normal biological process. “It is necessary to change the mindset of people. They should start treating it as a normal biological process…For holistic development of women, there is an urgent need to talk about such taboos,” said NGO Water Aid programme coordinator Avinash Kumar.