Sabarimala is one of India's most popular Hindu pilgrimage sites, welcoming millions of visitors per year — unless you're a woman between puberty and menopause, that is. Even in the modern day, women of menstruating age are banned from entering the temple, a prohibition that Indian women have recently begun protesting with the #HappyToBleed Facebook campaign. Although the law has been in effect for centuries, it has come under international scrutiny of late following the new chief of the Travancore Devaswom Board's statement that he has no plans to allow menstruating women into the temple. In fact, he declared that he would only allow women of menstruating age into Sabarimala after the invention of a device to "check the purity of women," aka detect whether a woman was bleeding.
Calling his remarks sexist and misogynistic, outraged women across India took to Facebook to express their disgust with the law's perpetuation of taboos surrounding menstruation. According to Mashable, 20-year-old Nikita Azad created #HappyToBleed with the support of Feminism in India to protest the chief's remarks.
"Women are denied entry to the temple because of the belief that menstruation makes them impure. We have started a campaign, #HappyToBleed, as a form of resistance against patriarchal beliefs about menstruation, and chauvinist notions that consider women the property of men, or society," Feminism in India wrote on Facebook.
Dozens of other women soon joined in, posting pictures of themselves with pads or charts to support the campaign.
According to Feminism in India founder and editor-in-chief Japleen Pasricha, the campaign is about more than being denied entry to one temple -- it's about larger taboos surrounding menstruation. "This is about my right to walk into any building, institution, temple regardless my vagina is bleeding or not... This blood is the reason why you exist," she wrote on Feminism in India's Facebook page.
This is far from the first time women in India have fought against stigma surrounding menstruation; like many cultures around the world, including the United States, Indian social norms hold that menstruation is impure and shameful. In fact, period shaming is so ingrained that earlier this year, a U.N. study found that 10 percent of girls in India believe that menstruation is a disease rather than a normal, healthy function of the female body. To combat this stigma, activists have done everything from creating comic books to educate girls about their periods to leading public marches against period shaming.
Unfortunately, taboos surrounding menstruation are heavily entrenched in most societies; even in countries where the stigma is less overt, women are heavily discouraged from speaking out about the periods. Thanks to campaigns like #HappyToBleed, however, women are chipping away at period shaming, one pad at a time.
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