Menstruating women in Rajasthan are imposed with certain restrictions pertaining to food and mobility.
In almost all parts of India, during menstruation, women are forced to behave in a certain way. They are not supposed to make food or touch water that others will drink, enter sacred places like temples and in some circumstances are made to sleep in different rooms on different bedding. It is widely believed that during this time, women are dirty and impure and risk contaminating things that they touch.
Although Sunita believes that this is clearly a form of discrimination, she says some things are so deeply ingrained in the mind that they will never be questioned or debated. Sunita herself adheres to these restrictions because her in-laws insist on them, and because somewhere, she deeply believes that going against these rules will incur the wrath of the gods. “We were told when we were young that we could get possessed during this time by evil spirits. Bad things would happen to us if we didn’t follow the traditions. Like maybe my husband would have an accident. Or my children would fall sick. When you are brought up with these beliefs, it is hard to think differently.”
The situation, however, is slowly changing. One of the reasons is that women had to serve guests who visited because the men wouldn’t, even if they were on their periods. When, after a while, nothing terrible happened they began to question why they couldn’t cook the food if they had to serve it anyway. Working women are also altering their behavior and continuing their normal routines when menstruating. The only exception, Sunita says, is that they still won’t enter temples or light the sacred lamps at home. “No one does that, still.”
Things like this make me question the Islamic fiqh regarding menstruation.