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Difficult Conversations Ishita Desai

Taboo and superstitious practices surrounding menstruation exist in India, that is a fact well known. But what I would have never guessed was that it was prevalent even in my community, a privileged and highly educated community! Back when The Red Lotus had just started, I was talking with a friend, who I will refer to as Priya (a pseudonym) here for the sake of her privacy, about how being a menstruator in rural parts of India can be very difficult, to which she replied that even she had had experiences with superstitious menstrual practices. I was quite shocked, I asked her if I could post a blog about this and agreed. So here is a short excerpt of my talk with Priya.

“I remember when I got my first period. My mom had asked me to stay in my room. I then thought that maybe she was just being considerate because I didn’t take her to be someone to put restrictions on me just because I was on my period. Ever since then, every time I’m on my period my mom asks me to limit my room and not to touch other family members’ things. I’m told to take a head bath before I do anything else on all days of my period. She also doesn’t like it when I enter the kitchen to help her out a little. This came to me as a surprise because even though I’ve heard stories of menstrual taboos being propagated, I never thought my family members would subject me to it. Especially when they are very open-minded otherwise. This put into perspective how normalised menstrual stigma is.”

“When I told them about me wanting to work with The Red Lotus, they were hesitant at first. They didn’t like the idea of me talking so openly about menstruation and the stigma surrounding it. It was a very difficult conversation to have but one that was the need of the hour. Why is it that the menstrual taboo is so rooted in our traditions?”

I have no answer for her question, but I do hope that Priya’s experience encourages other menstruators to have that much needed difficult conversation.

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