Menstruation in India & Nepal
Our Bodies, Our Selves
About a year ago there was a very tragic news story about a Nepali girl dying from suffocation as she was sleeping in a shed during her menstrual cycle. This practice of females being isolated from others during their periods is called Chaupadi. It is based mostly on social customs of India and Nepal.
This 15-year-old girl by the name of Roshani Tiruwa was a ninth grader at the time, who had attended the Rastara Bhasah Secondary School. The local district inspector, Badri Prasad Dhakal, was interviewed by AFP News. According to the inspector, "We suspect that she died of suffocation from smoke of a fire she lit to keep herself warm." This practice has been banned for more than a decade in this region. Nepal's Supreme Court declared it illegal in 2005.
In India and Nepal women and girls are often isolated from the rest of the family during their periods. They are not allowed to be in the kitchen or the temple. They are considered impure by certain individuals when they are having their periods.
Modern, environmental science has shown that women get rid of toxins during this time period and actually are more pure from an environmental standpoint than the males. In the Native American traditions women are considered more environmentally pure than men because they bled and get rid of environmental toxins at this time period. Men need to go to the sweat lodge because they have no way of releasing toxins, like women do on a regular basis through the menstrual cycle.
More and more women and girls in India and Nepal are refusing to do this kind of forced isolation practice. There are villages which post a sign which states the village is Chaupadi free.Some women and girls have also started a campaign called, "Happy to Bleed." They cook, clean, go to work and go to the temple during their periods. They are proud of their ability to bleed.
Some choose to stay away from work because they do not feel well at that time. Some women call in sick at work during this time period. This is okay because you are doing it out of your own choice for health reasons. When someone forces you to do it, this is unacceptable. No one is impure because they are having their period. It is a normal, biological experience all of us women share until menopause. We need to have control over our own bodies. Forced isolation is based on a patriarchal social custom in which women and girls are controlled by men. We should be the masters of this process, not the men.
Mother Kali saved the world by licking up the blood of a terrible demon. He was destroying everything in his path. She is a great example of a great goddess who took charge of the situation and brought a solution to the problem of the demon destroying everything.
I think we should develop centers for women's self-empowerment where we can go out of our homes by choice to rejuvenate ourselves. Doctors, chiropractors, naturopaths and nurses should be there for our health and well being, so that we can do our tasks in the world. We could have our own priests and swamis who would encourage enlightened attitudes for our bodies at these centers. Women could get information about the menstrual process, so we could make our own decisions. No woman or girl should be going out to sheds during this time period. These sheds are not safe because they lack the proper space, ventilation and heating equipment required for normal existence. Women and girls are dying because of these dangerous practices. We should understand our own cycles, so we can live in the world. We can have children or choose not to have children then. It is our choice, along with the support of our partners.
Men and boys also need to understand their own bodies. We all are often ignorant of these normal, biological processes. You can truly have a great partnership with your life partner when you both understand and can control your own bodies. You can have a more intelligent discussion of your own situations and needs when you both understand your basic, biological cycles. Your female cycle is tied to the phases of the moon and often we forget this basic fact. The moon does influence us in many ways we may not even be aware of.
Women need to support each other and be part of the great sisterhood of womankind. We can do great things in the world! Yes we can! Let us be the change we want to see in the world!
JAI SHRI MENSES! JAI SHRI MA! JAI SHRI SISTERHOOD!