Last week Prayar Gopalakrishnan, the newly appointed leader of Hindu Temples in Kerala, India, said that he would only allow women to enter the Sabrimala Templeone (one of the most ancient and prominent temples in the country) if a machine is invented to detect “purity.” Pure in the sense that women aren’t menstruating, because menstruating women are considered unclean and impure by temple authorities.
“These days there are machines that can scan bodies and check for weapons. There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the ‘right time’ (not menstruating) for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside,” he said.
Um, yeah, ok… NOT! Understandably outraged by the comment, student and gender rights activist Nikita Azad wrote an open letter to the new leader. In it she says…
“…You have mocked the entire women community by tagging menstruation as an impure activity. But, at the same time, you have claimed a temple made by my fellow brothers, sisters as your private ancestral property. By which authority, do you call Sabrimala Temple, your temple? By what authority, do you decide that I cannot enter the temple?
In the end, I would like to thank you. I thank you for giving women an opportunity to get rid of the utopian-liberal discourse of freedom, and rethink their position in society. Also, I thank you because your statement will not install purity checking machines, rather let women put a fight against such retrogressive, barbaric, and misogynist customs.”
After the letter was published and spread across the internet, Nikita launched a petition and the protest campaign HappyToBleed, encouraging women and supportive men post photos using the #HappyToBleed hashtag.
“Let us be clear, this is not a temple-entry campaign. This campaign is an initiative against sexism, and the taboos it uphold since ages. The class structure has created various forms of patriarchy like locking women in kitchens, reducing her contribution in production processes, considering her a reproductive machine, attaching the ‘honour’ tag, objectifying her as an object of sexual pleasure, impurity during menses etc.,” Nikita explains.
At WYSK, we talk about periods often, because menstrual taboos and restrictions are still practiced all around the world. Even Instagram has censored photos highlighting menstruation, and more recently, the New York transit authority was under fire for deeming a series of ads designed specifically “for women with periods” as “inappropriate” and “suggestive.”
Together, by raising our voices, and standing up for those who are speaking out, one day we just may undo the taboo!
For more on undoing the taboo, check out CycleDork, a new “period positive site that’s all about menstruation and other cycle-related issues,” launched by our friends at YogaDork.