Whether women want to enter temples or preside over religious functions during menstruation is a matter only they can decide.
It is not for men to place these arbitrary restrictions, especially in the modern age when feminine hygiene products are so widely available.
For any man who obsesses about the “impurity” of menstruating women and why they must be restricted from entering sacred spaces of worship, here is a one-line quiz: Would you stop a man carrying a bottle of urine or stool samples from entering your sanctum sanctorum?
Most hands will probably go up, including possibly that of the Kerala Congress chief who came up with this idea two days ago. Many men will probably be aghast at the suggestion that “dirty stuff” like urine can enter temples or other places of worship.
But here’s the kicker. If you have answered yes to the question, you should be barred from temples. All living beings, including men and priests, have urine accumulating in their bladders almost all the time, and fecal matter is not something that turns up in the intestine just before you head for the morning potty. If the logic of keeping women out is that their bodies are accumulating or ejecting waste material through menstruation, men are not excluded from this logic. Maybe we need clinics to certify that only those whose bodies are clean from the inside should be allowed into temples.
The human body is a huge filtration and waste disposal system for both men and women. Our noses and ears accumulate external dirt to prevent them from entering areas where they can do damage. Our skin is generating sweat to cool the body, emitting sodium and other minerals in the process. Our hearts clean the blood before they circulate all over the body. The liver cleans blood coming from the digestive tract and generates bile. And, of course, women clean up their wombs once it is clear there is no pregnancy during any month.
And so on.
The body is constantly working on cleaning and purging waste material and impurities, and to presume that only one function involving one gender – menstruating women – equals impurity and lack of cleanliness displays huge ignorance.
Patriarchy has such a strong hold on men and women primarily because of two reasons: the physical handicap women face while bearing and nurturing infants; and the regressive idea that menstruation somehow makes women unclean, and therefore inferior, to men when performing godly duties.
India, which has avoided the patriarchal Abrahamic mindset of having only male gods, has, despite having female gods, chosen this route to subjugate and mentally debase and colonise women. If we presume that our goddesses will have the same physiology of women born to humans, we are essentially abusing Saraswati, Durga, Laxmi and Parvati, among others.
The point that needs underscoring is this: whether women want to enter temples or preside over religious functions during menstruation is a matter only they can decide. It is not for men to place these arbitrary restrictions, especially in the modern age when feminine hygiene products are so widely available.
The gods and goddesses would not be amused to hear that one of their kind is somehow unclean. For a society that thought up elevating ideas like Aham Brahmasmi (I am brahman, the creator and me are the same), one wonders how laws on purity can be so different for men and women. We also have the concept of the Ardhanareeswar (the human being as being both male and female in parts). To hold one half of humankind as somehow inferior when we are both man and woman rolled into one body is nonsensical.