If you are a woman and you are reading this, then you know that a menstruating woman is considered ‘unclean’ to visit religious places. It is quite ironic because menstruation is a biological process that is considered to be closely related to fertility, motherhood and hence even womanhood. Menstruation, mostly the taboo surrounding it, has been there since the dawn of civilization. It has shaped the notions around womanhood in various cultures and societies and has always played an important role as to how a society viewed women, man-woman relationships, and even the role of a woman in a society as a whole.
In the recent times, with the rise of feminism in the 21st century, this taboo surrounding menstruation has been the subject of controversy and debate. These have led to many people, both men and women, question the legitimacy of these ‘laws’, notions, traditions, and practices surrounding a woman on her period.
These practices cut across all religions in some way or the other. For instance, Russian Orthodox Church deems that menstrual women should be kept in a separate hut, should be barred from various religious communions and touching religious objects like the Bible. Same goes for Hindus as well. In some countries, like that of India, it is not only practiced but also considered blasphemous if not adhered to. In Islam, menstruating women are considered “impure” and are to be avoided by men
So the narrative is almost same in every culture regarding this subject. So one wonders is it because of the social conditions and lack of medical advancements due to which these so-called laws were decreed?
Sanitary pads did not exist before the 80’s and modern painkillers weren’t available to ease off the discomfort of a woman on her period. Of course, there was Ayurveda (in Indian context) and rudimentary homemade rags which women used but they had questionable hygiene standards.