Locals believe that the temple would be desecrated if women on their periods were to pass the area which has led parents to confine menstruating girls to their homes.
Image Courtesy: Times of India
Dehradun: Young girls from Rautgara village in Pithoragarh tehsil are forced to skip school for at least five days every month. When they are menstruating, they are told to avoid school lest they anger the local deity, whose temple falls on the path to their school.
“Locals believe that the temple would be desecrated if women on their periods were to pass the area which has led parents to confine menstruating girls to their homes. In fact, the taboo has forced a few of the girls determined to get a good education to move to nearby cities and towns where they are staying with relatives. A team of the local administration will now be sent to counsel parents to allow girls to attend classes,” a report by Times of India said.
A team from the NGO Uttarakhand Mahila Manch was visiting the area when this revelation by girls shocked them. Uma Bhatt who led the team told TOI that girls from the village who attend Sail Government Intercollege have been skipping school for up to five days during their period because a temple dedicated to local deity Chamu Devta falls on the route.
“Teachers have been trying to encourage girls to attend classes but parents fear the backlash from the community and thus don't allow the girls to go to school," Bhatt said in the report. “A former teacher at the school requesting anonymity said, "People here are very conservative. We tried several times to create awareness among parents and persuade them to let their daughters attend school but most of them did not want to defy traditional norms,” the report added.
A 14-year-old girl from a coastal Tamil Nadu village died in cyclone Gaja after being forced to sleep separately because she was menstruating. Her family said that she was trapped in the hut on November 16 when the cyclone hit.
“Only in seven of India’s 36 states and union territories did 90% or more women in the 15-24 age group use hygienic protection during menstruation, according to the latest national health data. Not even 50% women used clean methods of dealing with menstrual hygiene in eight states and union territories. The mean for these eight states was 43.5%, with Bihar the worst at 31%, according to the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS), released in 2015-16,’ a report said.
Only 55% of young girls in India consider it a natural and normal physical process, according to the study conducted jointly by Water Aid, PATH, Zariya, Development Solutions and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.
“Only 48% girls were aware of menstruation before they attained puberty and no more than 23% knew that the uterus is the source of the bleeding, according to research conducted by the menstrual hygiene management study,” the report said.
Menstruation is still a taboo subject in India. Even now, women are considered “impure” during their period, subjected to social, religious and cultural restrictions, according to a study on menstrual health management.