Prayar Gopalakrishnan, the new Travancore Devaswom Board President, raised uproar amongst women all over India when he said at the Kollam Press Club on November 13, that women would be allowed to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala only after a machine was invented which checked whether it was the “right time” for them to do so.
“A time will come when people will ask if all women should be disallowed from entering the temple throughout the year. 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, according to Newsminute.
He also called to increase the security measures so that no menstruating women could covertly enter the Sabarimala temple.
To protest against this patriarchal ruling and in a move to abolish menstrual taboos, women have come together in a Facebook “counter campaign” Happy To Bleed, which has gained nationwide popularity.
The statement on the Facebook page says that by his statement, Gopalakrishnan “has reinforced misogyny and strengthened myths that revolve around women”.
The campaign asks women to “oppose the shame game played by the patriarchal society since ages” and asks them to “hold placards/sanitary napkins/charts saying Happy to Bleed” and post the pictures on the campaign page or their profiles.
The main aim behind the campaign is to make periods a normal phenomenon, something every woman goes through, and to convince girls over the world that it doesn’t make them impure.
Nikita Azad, a student and gender rights’ activist from Punjab, who hosts the event, penned an open letter to Gopalakrishnan, where she posed several questions on his comment and its underlying significance.
“I am sorry. I was not able to end the blood flowing out of my body. I am not able to end my curse, which I obtained by participating in the murder of a Brahmin (that’s what the historical justification of menstruation is). Blood flows out. It is my fault, right?” Azad wrote.
“I was told that my egg must fertilise with a man’s sperm chosen by society. If I dare choose the sperm on my own, I will be disowned. Similarly, you have decided that I should not bring my polluted blood inside the temple. But, which God gave somebody the right to choose what I do with my blood?” she added.
Azad also questioned Gopalakrishnan’s right in calling the Sabarimala temple his own: “By which authority, do you call Sabrimala temple, your temple? By what authority, do you decide that I cannot enter the temple?”
Azad signed off the letter as “A young, bleeding woman”.
The Facebook Happy to Bleed page is resplendent with photos of women protesting against this sexism.
“I have a uterus and I bleed once every-month. God does not get angry if I pray during my periods. Mr Prayar Gopalakrishnan and everyone who thinks women are impure during their periods, don’t forget it’s the same ‘Impurity’ you survived on for 9 months inside your mother’s womb,” said Aditi Gupta, co-founder of menstrupedia.com, on Facebook.
Menstruating women, considered impure, have always been denied entry into the Sabarimala temple.
“Not allowing women and girls post puberty is a traditional custom followed by Sabarimala temple and it has been upheld by the High Court and Supreme Court. It is not discrimination, this is differentiation. In Attukal temple only women make pongala, men are not allowed, same way every temple has its own tradition,” social activist and member of the Sabarimala tantric family, Rahul Eashwar told Newsminute.
Senior lawyer Sudha Ramalingam, one of the women activists decrying the comment said: “I can’t comprehend this. How can a machine determine the purity of women and what is the standard? How can a machine judge the purity of women? How scientific is it?” quoted Newsminute.
“It seems to be ridiculous. I am against the view that menstruating women are impure. People must first understand what woman and womanhood is and must talk with sensitivity,” she added.
Poet and activist Ravi Shankar pointed out: “There could also be a machine that scans and finds out whether men have led a celibate, teetotaler, vegetarian life for 41 days before entering the temple. This will help reducing the crowd by 90 per cent,” pointed out poet and activist Ravi Shankar.
It’s high time such misogynistic taboos concerning periods were done away with once and for all. In a country where the majority follows Hinduism—a faith which worships thousands of goddesses, where the Kamakhya devi –the bleeding goddess—is worshipped in Assam, one must understand that it is an utterly natural bodily function, something that indicates that a woman can give birth. A process which marks one as a giver of life must certainly never be singled out as a point of shame, as a point of unnecessary discrimination.