The two emotions that most South Asian Women remember when they experienced the beginning of their menstrual cycle is Shock and Shame.
The greatest irony is that the menstrual cycle is the most essential process that ensures the survival of humankind, still, our society wants to punish women for bleeding every month. This heart-wrenching attitude of our society is responsible for killing a 12-year-old girl of a village in Tamil Nadu.
On November 12, 3 days before Cyclone Gaja hit Thanjavur district, 12-year-old Vijaya got her first period. Sadly the myths about periods are so deeply ingrained in the minds of her family that they valued tradition above her life.
Despite multiple warnings regarding the cyclone, she was asked to sleep in a thatched barn behind her house as she was on periods.
Cyclone Gaja, uprooted many items including a coconut tree, which fell on the thatched room that eventually led to the death of the young girl.
Vijaya’s mother, who was accompanying her daughter, met with some injuries and has been admitted to the Pattukottai government hospital.
Pattukottai DSP Ganesamoorthy shared with TNM that Vijaya was asked to live out of the house because of an old tradition:
“This is some tradition in this side of the state. When a girl comes of age, the family asks her to stay separately in a thatched hut for at least a week. She is asked to come inside the house only after the rituals are done on completion of a certain number of days. It varies from community to community. That is what happened with this girl”
According to reports, she was expected to stay in the barn alone for 16 days. But destiny had other plans.
Kavya Menon, Head for Project safe active periods, AWARE India says:
“It is common practice for women in villages to move into a different room and to be isolated when they are menstruating. But this is not spoken about freely” says Kavya.
She further adds:
“Girls who are left alone are more vulnerable. The whole community is responsible for this death and it cannot be pinned on the Gaja cyclone. Her death is a result of societal violence against women.”
Cyclone Gaja has claimed 45 lives across Tamil Nadu so far. But as mentioned by Kavya – the community is responsible for this death and not the cyclone.
If the society and the government don’t work now to make the country worth living for women, then when?