A campaign designed to remove shame from menstruation is sweeping social media in India, after misogynistic comments made by a temple chief sparked outrage.
The ‘Happy to Bleed’ campaign was launched as a protest, after an Indian temple chief said that women would only be allowed to enter a shrine after he had invented a machine that detects when women are ‘pure’ – i.e. not on their periods.
Temple chief, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, told reporters that: “A time will come when people will ask if all women should be disallowed from entering the temple throughout the year.
“These days there are machines that can scan bodies and check for weapons,” he says.
“There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the ‘right time’ for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside.”
The Happy to Bleed campaign was launched on Saturday by college student, Nikita Azad, who was enraged by the sexist comments.
Azad created a Facebook page, encouraging women to hold placards or sanitary napkins with the message “Happy to Bleed” and to share the images on their newsfeeds.
On her Facebook protest page, Azad says the temple chief's comments have “reinforced misogyny and strengthened myths that revolve around women.”
“Happy to Bleed is a counter campaign launched against menstrual taboos and sexism that women are subject to through it,” she continues.
“It acknowledges menstruation as a natural activity which doesn’t need curtains to hide behind.”
Azad also writes that the campaign is a “protest against patriarchy and gender discriminatory practices prevalent in our society.”
According to the BBC, menstruation is traditionally a taboo subject in India, and in the Hindu religion, menstruating women are regarded as unclean, and are not permitted to touch any idols or enter the kitchen, until they are no longer bleeding.
Many Hindu temples around the world display prominent signs warning menstruating women not to enter.
However, the temple in question, the Sabarimala in Kerala, refuses entry to any women of reproductive age (from 10-50 years of age).
On the temple’s website, a warning reads that “such women who try to enter Sabarimala will be prevented by [the] authorities" from entering the temple.
The “Happy To Bleed” campaign has since gone viral on social media and the hashtag #HappyToBleed is trending on Twitter, with people sending in messages of support to the Facebook page.
Others, however, have voiced concern that they are never entirely ‘happy’ to bleed, since periods aren’t really a walk in the park.
But Azad has responsed, telling the BBC that “We are using happy as a word to express sarcasm – as a satire, to taunt the authorities, the patriarchal forces which attach impurity with menstruation.”
“It may be painful, but it's perfectly normal to bleed and it does not make me impure,” she says.