On November 20, Nikita Azad wrote an open letter to Prayar Gopalakrishnan, the Devaswom chief of the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. He, while speaking to the media on November 13, had reportedly talked about a machine to scan if it is the ‘right time’ for a woman to enter the Sabarimala temple, which does not allow access to women in the reproductive age. The 20-year-old was outraged at the sexist comment, and decided to do something about it.
Azad, with a few of her friends, started a week-long online campaign on Facebook titled “Happy To Bleed”, which has garnered massive support from women across the country. “Happy to Bleed is a counter-campaign to fight menstrual taboos and sexism that women are subject to through it. It acknowledges menstruation as a natural activity which doesn’t need curtains to hide behind,” reads the description of the campaign inviting people to hold placards/sanitary napkins/charts saying Happy To Bleed, take their pictures, upload it to their profiles or post on the page.
As a kid, Azad was never subject to any discrimination at home. Her mother did tell her about the taboos but never compelled her. However, while attending school in Jalandhar, girls were asked if they were menstruating and were restricted from being a part of holy rituals. Azad says, back then, she was too young to realise how sexist it was, but now she understands the gravity of the situation and had to speak about it.
In India, there are still sections of society who do not accept women as “pure”, when they have their periods. They are prohibited from going to temples, touch idols, or even touch something like pickle. In fact, in many rural parts of the country, menstruating girls are asked to stay in separate rooms that are outside the huts.
Azad is surprised to see the support the campaign has received and though it is for a good cause, the response is quite “unexpected”. Initially, Azad took to writing to register her protest but after discussing with a few friends (who are also a part of the Pinjra Tod campaign) she decided “why not start a campaign and see how it turns out”.
At the time of writing, the campaign had already received over 300 entries and the number is increasing by the day. “Prayar Gopalakrishnan and every one who thinks women are impure during their periods, don’t forget its the same ‘Impurity’ you survived on, for 9 months inside your mother’s womb,” writes Aditi Gupta, founder of Menstrupedia, a comic on menstrual awareness, who has also participated in the campaign.
The 20-year-old plans to increase the magnitude of the campaign and take it to ground level reaching out to schools, colleges, universities and villages. “We’ll study the result of this campaign, prepare a report and take an action by January,” says Azad who is yet to formulate a concrete course of action.
“The National Commission for Women should take a stand on menstrual taboos in the society more vehemently,” she added.
Here’s how people are supporting the campaign: