In 'Day 28' we bring you stories about the
menstrual cycle, which is ideally 28 days. We talk about (our own) experiences, rituals en cultural differences.
Within every culture people look at menstruation differently. There are parts of Asia where it is associated with dirty blood. Women are not allowed to enter a holy temple, pray or perform any other religious activities.
Kajal (33) grew up with these rituals because of her Indian background.
,,At eleven years, I got my period and was being taught about the rules. Even before I was explained about the link between menstruation and being able to get pregnant. My Mother told me I was not allowed to come to religious events, can’t pray or touch anything holy, like statues of Gods.
When my parents went to the temple, they got offered food while praying and took this home with them. This food is also seen as holy so I wasn’t allowed to eat it."
Fasting is part of Hinduism and is only allowed on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. ,,The strange thing is that I am allowed to fast
on any of those days, also when I’m on my period. Only I am not
allowed to pray during fasting."
Last month Diwali took place. It’s a celebration of the new moon that starts
a new year. A big happening in the Indian community. ,,At the moment it took place I was losing blood, but because it wasn’t a large amount anymore I was allowed into the temple."
It’s mainly the first four days of a period that women can’t pray. If on their fourth day the worst bleeding is over, you wash your hair and are allowed to do everything again. You are 'clean'. Diwali can still be celebrated at home with family when on your period.
Kajal’s partner is originally Catholic. ,,When I first told him about the rules of my religion he didn’t fully understand. Now he is the first one to ask if I’m not on my period when we are expected at a temple ritual.”
During your menstruation you are also not allowed to get married.
Kajal and her partner got married in a Hare Krishna temple as well as in
a Catholic church. The weeks towards the wedding celebration rituals took place with family and female friends. Due to this she was on the pill, to make sure her period didn’t come in those weeks or on the wedding day itself. ,,There are a lot of rules I don’t fully understand. One of them is that you can enter a Hare Krishna temple when on your period, but you cannot get married at that time. I asked the woman who was going through the ceremony with us if she could explain that and she didn’t know the answer either."
There are traditions that are brought upon generations, without people knowing the history of it. These people do follow the rules, but do not always know where they come from. ,,To be honest, I never felt the need to look into it. I believe what I have been taught and accept that is how it is.
When I was younger I did feel left out at times, when my parents and little brother went out and I wasn’t allowed to come. I felt like I was missing out and sometimes even felt like lying about being on my period. Eventually I never did, because I knew I just wasn’t supposed to come. For my brother, who is five and a half years younger, it was the other way around. He wanted to stay home and didn’t understand why he had to come and I didn’t."
Like some people may think, not being allowed in church is not only an Asian thing. Until 1917 women in western countries where not allowed in a Catholic church. In some parts of India very strict rules are being kept still. Women sometimes live separated for seven days, are not allowed to touch anyone, take a bath or com their hair.
Kajal tells us that talking about menstruation is not a taboo in her family. Also not with men. ,,I am always allowed to openly talk about it if I want to, although I wouldn’t do that to my Dad or brother just like that. I think that is an Asian thing and comes from a form of respect. When my Dad asks me if I come to the temple and I’m on my period, I just say no and
don’t explain why. My brother sometimes asks why, then I do
To her son of ten months she wants to, before he becomes a
teenager, teach all bout menstruation, what it does to a
woman and what happens to her body. ,,At the moment he will
have a girlfriend, he will have a better understanding of how
she feels. It is just as important for men to know about these
things as it is for women."
Text: Evita Lagerwaard
Follow the cycle and check on Day 28 part VI in this series of 'menses chronicles'. During this part we will talk about an alternative for the pil.