Letters – Menstrual Shame and Superstitions in India – The New York Times

The Taboo of Menstruation,” by Rose George (Op-Ed, Dec. 29), sheds a welcome light on the unfortunate effects of menstrual superstitions and ignorance in parts of India. Unfortunately, similar taboos with similar debilitating outcomes exist in other regions saddled with the kinds of anti-women prejudices from which such practices are derived.

And lest those of us from America and other technologically advanced countries become too smug in believing that we are liberated from the peculiar notions identified in the article, we need to recognize that many girls here grow up either uninformed or misinformed about the menstrual cycle and feel the same kind of shame or embarrassment about their periods.

While it is heartening to hear about progressive efforts on the menstrual front in India, it is important to advance that cause in every country where girls are taught to feel that their bodies are tainted once a month.

New York, Dec. 29, 2012

The writer, a professor of communication arts at Marymount Manhattan College, is editor of the newsletter of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.

To the Editor:

Rose George is to be commended for bringing “The Taboo of Menstruation” to a broad audience. It is just one of myriad issues that women and girls are facing today in India.

Sexual abuse, rape, and lack of proper nutrition, access to education and counseling are keeping millions of women and girls from reaching their potential and are in clear violation of their human rights. The public demonstrations now taking place in India, over the death of a woman who was gang-raped, are bringing global attention to these issues.

India has contributed to and driven globalization in the areas of culture, technology, literature and research. Now attention must be turned to those women and girls who have so much potential, yet are being left behind economically.

New York, Dec. 31, 2012

The writers are, respectively, president and founder/director of the Women’s Education Project.

To the Editor:

My grandmother in India refused to let her daughters or daughters-in-law enter the kitchen or visit the temple during their menstrual periods because it was considered genuinely disrespectful and unhygienic. My wife and daughters today ignore the taboo of menstruation.

While things are slowly changing, religious institutions among Hindus, Jains and Buddhists in America and India can take a proactive role in rejecting this taboo. Scholars and leaders at temples need to discuss the issue openly and encourage women to abandon the old practices and men to advocate on behalf of their mothers, wives, daughters and sisters. The taboo of menstruation has no correlation to disrespect or impure hygiene.

Source: The New York Times