When Religion made Women outcasts…

01Jul06

June 30th Morning. I catch up with some of my usual news links and I come across this outrageously ridiculous article in the Indian Express (via Uma) on actress Jayamala saying she touched the idol at Sabarimala in Kerala. Oh, don’t click on the link so soon. Read ahead.

As ridiculous as it sounded I noted down some of the quotes from that article, so that I could come up with a basher of a post. Here are some of them.

[The Jayamala incident] is a permanent blot on the sanctity of the Sabarimala temple

The article called it a shameful incident.

And even more horrifying is the fact that she was allowed to touch the idol which is a strict no-no for all

Women are not allowed to enter the temple because they menstruate. Men are allowed because they don’t. And their religion says, menstruating women are dirty. So,

[Temple authorities] will now be forced to initiate a series of rituals to cleanse the abode of all such impurities.

And so, there will be a massive purification campaign to cleanse the temple because a woman touched the idol. And a prestigious newspaper like the Indian Express carried such atrocious views taking the side of religious dogma defaming womanhood.

June 30th Evening. The article was already removed by the Indian Express. At least they were that sensible.

Now, what is the big deal about the whole affair? Throughout history, Religion always had a tendency to blind people with senseless dogmatism. Rather than a means to discipline one’s intellect and imbibe a sense of tolerance, religion has been a negative force and a prime catalyst in the discrimination against women.

Here’s what religion says about women. A discussion of Religion and Menstruation says that a Zoroastrian woman in her menses is doctrinally held to be in a state of impurity. Wikipedia’s Culture and Menstruation says, some Christian denominations, including some (but by no means all) authorities of the Orthodox Church, advise women not to receive communion during their menstrual period.

Many Hindu women avoid routine work and do not enter the kitchen or pooja (altar) room. They do not touch members of their family or exchange clothes with them. They may even sleep on mats instead of their usual beds, or in special rooms or huts for this purpose.

And there are those people who still have the feeling that such absurd religious beliefs have a scientific connation. For instance, David Israel Macht found a certain toxin called Menotoxin in the various body fluids of a menstruating woman. This toxin is believed to manifest itself in large quantities just before and during the first few days of the onset of the monthly period. A discussion of Religion and Menstruation says,

Research has revealed that Menotoxin has an inhibitory effect on the growth of roots, stems, living seedlings, yeast and affects the geotropic properties of seedlings.

Now lets look at the facts. As per Macht’s biography on Wikipedia,

To date, neither the existence of menotoxin nor the ability of phytopharmacology to predict toxicity to humans has been scientifically corroborated by independent researchers.

Evidently, presence of menotoxin is under dispute and is not a proven fact. And views that menstruating women must abstain from all activities including sexual intercourse because of the ill effects of this toxin is equally absurd.

Worries about having sex during menstruation stems from dire misconceptions about menstrual blood which force people to teach young girls that their menstrual blood is dirty. Though frowned upon by many religions, sexual intercourse during menstruation is entirely normal and completely healthy. Epigee Women’s Health magazine notes,

Menstrual blood is an entirely natural bodily fluid, and does not in anyway affect a man’s penis or a woman’s reproductive tract. As long as you are engaging in safe and protected sexual intercourse, it is entirely alright for you and your partner to have sex during your period.

There goes the impurity theory. So much for all the bullshitting about women being impure. Put the facts in front, not a blinded dogmatic belief in what religion says.

If a religion treats women as outcasts because of a phenomenon which is just another natural biological process of feminity, then there cannot be more insane people than the ones who believe in them. I believe in God and Spirituality. But not in religion.

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18 Responses to “When Religion made Women outcasts…”

  1. 1 Jax

    We do not destroy religion by destroying superstition….

  2. 2 sangeeta

    stuff like this makes me go “aaarrrrggggghhhhh”

  3. Well… I personally feel that women require rest during menstruation which is probably why they have not complained about being not allowed in the kitchen for a few days a month.

    All this hue and cry for nothing.. As if all women want to go and touch the idols in Shabarimala..like it is a big deal.. bah!

  4. 4 vijay babu

    kichu,
    it is very informative da..
    i agree with jax in saying that “do not destroy religion by destroying superstition… “… i dont know how much that is applicable for Christianity… but it holds true for Hinduism da…

    jax sandaikku varuvaanaa? :)

  5. 5 Jax

    Vijay: you removed the ‘we’ while quoting me :-) That kind of alters the entire sentence…

  6. 6 Vidya

    Well written !! In my granny’s house still my aunts are not supposed to cook the rice which is to be kept for the god .. Even i was told that i was impure during the menstrual period by my mum … ur post was very informative indeed …!!!

  7. Jax,
    Agree with that. But people’s inherent feel of insecurity prevents them from drawling a line between superstition and religion.

    Sangeeta,
    Me too…

    RisenPhoenix,
    But that is not considered that way. Most places its just another discriminatory practice.

  8. VisBabu,
    Thanks da.. :)

    Vidya,
    Its time we woke up to reality and understand things in the proper perspective, right?

  9. 9 usha

    echoes my sentiments on the subject. Feels good to hear these from a male and of your age – renews my hope that things may change someday.

  10. It’s strange that although India has always had an intellectually-inclined culture, there were (and are) still so many backward traditions…It’s a dichotomy I can’t get over.

  11. 11 Kishore

    QG,
    Believe me, but such things are very prevelant in the present-day intellectually-inclined society as well. We have improved a lot over the years, but we still have a rather long way to go in certain things.

  12. 12 Mike

    Keep up the good work,

    “I believe in God and Spirituality. But not in religion.”, i’ve been saying that for years.

    Quest Girl Says:
    February 4th, 2007 at 7:17 pm
    It’s strange that although India has always had an intellectually-inclined culture, there were (and are) still so many backward traditions…It’s a dichotomy I can’t get over.

    –> intelligence/intellectual doesn’t equal open mindedness…

    i was suprised you didnt put anything about the over-emphasis on mans role in society perpetuated by religion ever since paganism that, excuse my french, fucked up western society & led to globalisation, which could fuck up the rest of the world’s societies too… Interesting site ++

    Mike

  13. 13 Marie

    I find it both shocking & deeply offensive at the treatment of women during menstruation in certain religions such as Zoroastrianism. Menstruation is a normal healthy bodily process that occurs on a monthly basis. There is nothing impure or dirty about it. It is a shame that women in that society have been lead to believe that they are impure & unable to go to their fire temples or touch certain objects whilst they are menstruating. I find it even more appalling that they will in turn raise their daughters to believe the same outdated & damaging beliefs. It is time that people opened their eyes & realise that ‘GOD’ does not want women to be treated in such ways.

  14. 14 Adynod

    I checked your quote from Dr Macht – you should have cited it yourself:

    “To date, neither the existence of menotoxin nor the ability of phytopharmacology to predict toxicity to humans has been scientifically corroborated by independent researchers.
    His claims to have used phytopharmacology to demonstrate the presence of menotoxin in the saliva, tears and blood of menstruating women are contentious at best. At the time, the theory of the existence of menotoxin was widely believed. Macht saw his studies as confirmation of this and of the biblical teachings regarding the uncleanliness of menstruating women. There have been few recent studies performed to prove or disprove the existence of menotoxin because a general lack of interest in the issue.”

    Scientists have a habit of ignoring what is not in their interest to research.

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  17. Yes! Finally something about Women.

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