A Dive Into Period Positive Cultures From Around The World

| By Juliee Kamble |

Disclaimer: This article deals with menstruation in binaries because these communities treat menstruation as a women’s issue. Paddling foundation does not endorse this opinion.

The way communities threat their menstruators tells us a lot about their socio-cultural make up. By understanding how menstruation is treated in different cultures, we get an insight into their gender relations, social hierarchies, power structures and the mindset of a community. It defines the culture’s intimate workings. 

Most menstruators have grown up being told not to enter the kitchen or stay away from any spaces of worship or asked to sleep on the floor. Taboos and myths have always surrounded menstruation; therefore, the treatment of those menstruating is infused with internalised guilt, shame and selective ostracisation.

The Yurok Tribe – The United States

The Yurok tribe, a native ethinic group on the northwest coast of the United States, uses its beliefs to create an alternate atmosphere of acceptance around menstruation.

Isolation of the menstruating person remains the outline of the practice, but here the focus is on the menstruator’s well-being. The menstruators of the tribe live in houses or huts away from the settlement, which now translates into a separate room in the house. This allows them a break from housework and similar responsibilities, while the focus remains on a deeper spiritual time for the menstruator.

The Beng Women and the Momogun Rungus – Africa

The Beng women, belonging to an African community along the Ivory coast, treat male interference with a positive approach. Menstruating women are not separated from their social life. Menstrual blood is seen as a symbol of fertility and not regarded as a pollutant. On the other hand, the Momogun Rungus, another ethinic group of Borneo island, take a neutral approach to the matter. Periods are treated as neither polluting nor auspicious. They are treated as a natural, physical process. It is considered an “unmarked category.


The Bauls – India

While we understand that periods are generally perceived in terms of pure and impure or clean and polluted; what differentiates these practices from negative to positive is how and why they are performed.

Although restrictions exist, the distinction lies in the spiritual and caretaking aspect of these practices — an elevated emphasis on spiritual duties, cleansing, fulfillment, and the use of traditional practices to encourage communal growth. It changes the narrative from oppression to empowerment. 

Similarly, the idea of menstruators requiring a break from their day-to-day responsibilities, looking after themselves, and being supported by the community is incredibly useful for the development and unity of the community. However, it should be noted that a menstruator’s autonomy should take presidence over any of the community’s practices. 

These positive cultural differences must be learnt and adapted to; to create a world accepting of menstruation. An understanding of both — science and spirituality — of menstruation should allow menstruators an access to health care — and a right to their bodies and beliefs. 

The article was edited by Gargee Ranade, Ria Sewlani & Priyanka Gulati.

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