Sounds ludicrous I know. But yes, you read that right. There are places in the world that ban women from going there when they are menstruating. Even in this seemingly liberal day and age, if you’re a woman who’s got her period, you will not be allowed to enter certain places and I’m going to share with you today what those places are.
1. Hindu Temples
I’ve recently returned from a holiday in Bali, and it was there that I first found out about the fact that certain places prevented menstruating women from entering them.
The predominant religion in Bali is Hinduism and one of the expectations as Hindus is that each household and business establishment, including hotels, restaurants etc. must have their own private temple which they can worship, pray, and leave offerings to the gods and spirits. As such, the hotel we stayed in had its own temple, which as paying hotel guests we were allowed to enter. I’m not in any way religious, but I’ve always been slightly fascinated by Hinduism in particular, so I was keen to take a look. However, when I approached the entrance, I noticed a sign that read, “Women during menstruation not allowed”. As it turns out, I was indeed menstruating at that point (always when you go on holiday, right!) so obviously I didn’t go in there. I mean, sure no one could have actually proved anything, but I’m respectful, plus who knows what might have struck me down had I had the audacity to go marching on in there.
Anyway, it made me curious. Why is it that Hinduism doesn’t allow women to enter temples when they are menstruating? A quick Google search and a bit of reading answered my question. Menstrual blood, along with 11 other bodily fluids, are considered impure. However, there is more to it than just that it is considered as dirty and taboo. It is also believed that the energy produced by women on their period is channelled down into the earth. In contrast to this, the energy that is created in the temple through various rituals raises upwards. And this potential clash of energies can be both detrimental to the woman as well as to the temple itself.
Either way, it was definitely enough to stop me from even thinking about venturing inside, because you never know what might happen!
2. Indian Villages
OK, so I’m not talking all Indian villages, but there are some remote villages in the Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa regions of India that take a very strict and prejudiced view of women who are menstruating.
The practice of banishing women and girls who are menstruating is mostly contained within the Gond and Madiya ethnic groups, who believe that period blood is impure. So impure in fact that when a woman hits her time of the month, she is banished from the village to go and live in special menstruation huts, known as gaokers. These very basic huts aren’t equipped with a kitchen, as menstruating women are also not allowed to cook and so the women rely on family members to bring them food during this time. What this also means for girls who have been banished, is that they are unable to go to school during this time and many also miss out on taking important exams… all because they have their period.
Conversely, in other Indian cultures, period blood is deeply respected and considered to have strong, protective powers. In the Manipur region, they believe that a girl’s first bloodied cloth is so sacred that it must be kept until she is married, at which point it is gifted to her as a means to protect herself and her family against bad health. In a similar vein, girls are encouraged to taste a drop of blood from their first period as another form of protection.
3. Mount Omine, Japan
Mount Omine, in Japan, is considered a sacred mountain in the Shugendo religion. This small religion focuses on mountain worship and has elements of shamanism, Shinto, and Buddhism. Its indigenous followers lead a very reclusive lifestyle and avoid influences from the external world.
It’s not just menstruating women, but all women full stop, who are banned from climbing the mountain, as they are deemed too much of a distraction. But menstruating women are even more frowned upon as period blood or blood brought on from childbirth is considered hugely impure and an insult to this most divine of mountains.
So, there you have it, three places you can’t go to if you are menstruating. Whilst it is important to honour and respect the views of different religions, it is also crucial women are not stigmatized for having something that is 100% natural and that women have experienced from the very dawn of time. Period shame must end. Full stop.