A woman’s power during her periods strikes fear in men

Lifestyle

A woman’s power during her periods strikes fear in men

Cultural restrictions fuel the period stigma and keep women excluded and shamed

Kgomotso Moncho-Maripane

A woman should not cook during her period. If a member of Zionist denominations or Shembe church, a woman on her period may not take part in worship rites and may even not come to church at all. A menstruating healer should not see clients or touch her healing paraphernalia. In some cases, menstruating girls are not allowed to go to school.

These are some restrictions that fuel the period stigma and keep women excluded and shamed. The stigma and its myths carry with it an oppressive notion that menstruating women are unclean. What perpetuates this are the hushed tones around menstruation, the euphemisms for it and the shortage of education and open dialogue about it. While the global move to have sanitary pads easily accessible to the underprivileged shines a spotlight on the issue and how it infringes on girls’ and women’s human rights – at the same time demystifying sexual reproductive health and menstrual health management – there’s still room for a broader conversation.

The period stigma can be viewed as a form of misogyny, and it is also believed to be at the heart of the origins of patriarchy. However, not all societies view menstruation negatively. There are strong beliefs that a woman’s period is positive and powerful. Writing on how menstruation became taboo, researcher Anna Druet reveals how menstrual customs of some modern-day hunter-gatherer societies enhance female autonomy. She observes that the biggest grass hut of the Mbuti people of the DR Congo is the menstrual hut, where girls go when they have their first period, accompanied by other women. There, having a period is considered powerful and blessed by the moon...

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