Part 3 of Ramadhan Reflections: #EditorsChat on Menstruating while Muslim
What must be done to change the mentality around menstruation?
Mediah: I think we need to openly talk about menstruation – it doesn’t need to be kept secret like it’s a dirty thing. It’s natural. Especially during Ramadan if you see a woman not fasting. I say to all men out there – think before you judge, because that woman might be on her period.
I also consider women who continue to fast whilst menstruating as a carrying out a feminist act, because one of reasons fasting is not recommended is because the woman is supposedly weak during this time. I remember a debate a couple years back that we had that if we feel fine then we can fast! But then, there’s the argument regarding prayer! The debate never ends. So I say it’s all about intention!
Hyshyama: Personally, I think we also need to instill the sense of normalcy in young girls. When I was younger, I used to hate getting my periods, but as I get older I’ve begun appreciating menstruation as my body’s mechanism to ensure health and wellbeing.
Yes, it’s going to take open and honest conversation at all levels before menstruation is considered a normal occurrence and not something to be hidden or feel ashamed of. We must break these myths and misconceptions about menstruation, particularly those that restrict women’s mobility, religious and social practices, their right to education, proper sanitation, employment and beliefs which suggest they have a compromised ability to make decisions. No woman should be denied these simply on the basis that she menstruates – that kind of pre-historic thinking has no place in this world today.
Afak: We need to stop systematically conditioning young minds to feel uncomfortable around a very natural and important topic. There are many ways to tackle this problem. There are educationalists, health workers and politicians who are systematically creating more awareness about reproductive health in many Muslim communities. Their methods are mostly top-down and directive. I believe in the bottom-up approach. I think this approach can help the community identify their own problems, solutions and ways to address this issue. The taboos around menstruation are global phenomena and not solely a problem within the Muslim community. It is important to look at the context. Some communities celebrate menarche; others try to keep it a secret for as long as possible. We already see that many women are feeling more comfortable speaking out upon taboo subjects in regards to female reproductive health. It is important to encourage these voices so more women and girls get a sense of ownership over their bodies. Lastly, it is important to include men in this dialogue. There needs to be a healthy dialogue between the sexes, and this start from our homes. We need to ask ourselves why we are uncomfortable discussing our reproductive health with family members, friends and even health workers and how can we create a healthy dialogue in our community to reduce the stigma. Menstruation is a normal biological phenomenon and it is time that we alter our negative attitudes.
Want to share your opinion and experiences? Tweet at us with the hashtag #MenstruatingwhileMuslim