Purity culture is more than just a fundamentalist Christian thing. It also makes an appearance in certain strands of Hinduism as well.
Although still a sensitive subject in many Indian families, menstruation had never been taboo in mine — until an emotional reunion revealed a generational divide.
“Does anyone have a tampon?” I asked as I left the bathroom.
My aunt, who had been lying casually on her hotel bed, stood up to reach for her handbag. She pulled out a sanitary towel and handed it over to me.
“This will tide you over until we can stop by a pharmacy,” she said. And looking rather sadly at me, she added: “You know what this means, don’t you?”
I didn’t.“You won’t be able to come to the temple.”
Mohan wasn’t allowed to attend her grandmother’s funeral because she was menstruating. Sadly, but not too surprisingly, it was the women in her family who forbade her to go, not the men — which goes to show just how deeply embedded these patriarchal, destructive misconceptions about biology really are.
Of course, nobody would have known the difference if Mohan hadn’t said anything, as one cousin told her. Apparently women lie about having their periods all the time in order to participate in religious rituals. But as Mohan’s aunt explained, period-shaming is something that “just is” in their culture.
But just because something is a tradition doesn’t mean it is worthy of being upheld.
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