Women are 'Sinners', Cursed to Bleed
Baroji village, in Nuh, Haryana, is an example of how menstruation is used as a tool to subjugate women
"My mother says periods are a curse given by God to women. Living under the 'woes of menstruation', I feel stigmatised," said 16-year-old Aashi. Menstruation remains a grave concern in India, especially in rural areas. The stigma attached to it has only witnessed a rampant increase. Many women are not even aware of the dreadful consequences of not maintaining hygiene during that time of the month.
Baroji village, in the Nuh district of Haryana, carries on the 'legacy' of male hegemony. People living here believe "menstrual periods" are a taboo topic and are considered as an insult. "We are not allowed to enter the kitchen during our 'monthlies' and are made to live in separate rooms. This is because we become impure during this period," said Rashmi (40).
This village lacks any awareness about women's health and hygiene. The men here are reluctant to talk about their wives, mothers and daughters. The girls and women themselves are convinced that menstrual bleeding is a 'sin'. The village elders are clear that they want the women to live under veils and just be committed to doing domestic chores. The village lacks basic health facilities and does not even have a chemist shop. Women here use unhygienic cloth, and cotton during their menstrual period.
"I use a pale yellow coloured cloth during monthlies. I wash and reuse the cloth every month. Sometimes I feel apprehensive, but I am a woman and I have to deal with this 'menace'," says Bulbul (21). "My father hasn't wanted me to study since the time I started bleeding. He says I have become impure and school is a place of worship. I feel disgusted and constrained. My grandfather says girls are meant to do housework only. They should not step out of their homes," she added.
Period blood is considered a disgrace, dishonour, and embarrassment for many here. The village believes menstrual blood is an impurity and a sin. Women living here are terrified and are suppressed by the men. "I am not allowed to touch anything while I'm bleeding. I cannot eat pickles and am not allowed to enter temples. I feel periods are a barrier which stops me from doing a lot of work. During this time of the month, I'm treated like an untouchable. At times, my father calls me a witch," said Reeti (18).
"My father wanted a son. But unfortunately, I was born. Earlier my father used to talk to me sometimes. But since I started bleeding, my father has neglected me and calls me his 'dishonour'," she added.
How strange that period blood is the only blood which is not caused by violence yet it disgusts the most. Many villages of India still can't acknowledge that periods are a matter of normalcy. The national service scheme of Maharaja Agrasen College, Delhi University recently initiated an awareness campaign in the village to educate both men and women on menstruation. The team felt that while the situation is really stark, an awareness program is the first step to normalise menstruation.