Menstruating women in religious temples

Most religions have menstrual rules and restrictions. Some religions, but not all, prohibit chaupadi the Nepalese practice of isolating menstrual women Kamala Vishwarkarmas menstruation culture taboomenstruating women from entering their religious temples because they are seen as religiously unclean.

Personally, I have a problem with women being barred from religious events for a quarter of every month because their menstrual blood is seen as dirty or polluting. Do churches and temples have a legal right to forbid menstruating women from entering? What about women who have a special condition & are bleeding most (or all) of the time? I guess any church has the right to make a request, as long as women can choose whether to obey or not.

In Japan, traditionally women are not allowed to climb mountains sacred to the Shinto religion regardless of whether they are menstruating or not. Women are seen as permanently unclean due to the ‘blood impurities’ of menstruation and childbirth.  Only one mountain in Japan, Mount Sanjō (also known as Mount Mount Ōmine), actually reinforces this prohibition against women today (the ban has been challenged a number of times without success). Mount Sanjō does allow women onto one side of the mountain, but not onto the other side because that is near a holy temple. Here is the sign at the entrance that says “No Women Admitted” in English & Japanese:

Menstruating women are not permitted in Hindu temples because they are seen as religiously unclean. Many Hindu temples that are open to the public have a sign that prohibits menstruating women from entering. When visiting a foreign country I think we should “do as the Romans do,” and respect temple rules even if we don’t agree with them. Here are some signs outside Hindu temples in India & Bali:

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In some Buddhist temples menstruating women are forbidden (particularly in the North of Thailand) because of the influence of Hinduism – however most Buddhist temples do not prohibit menstruating women (Buddhism does not have menstrual taboos).

In Islam, menstruating women are (generally) prohibited from entering mosques.

In Judaism menstruating women are allowed to attend the synagogue.

In most Christian churches today, menstruating women are allowed to attend church. However menstruating women are not allowed to receive communion in some more conservative Orthodox churches. In some, they are not allowed to attend church at all. Although Eve’s curse was pain in childbirth (not menstruation) later Christian writers have associated menstruation with Eve’s curse, and some Orthodox Christians today still see menstruation as religiously unclean.

 

This entry was posted in Menstruation Restrictions, Religion and Menstruation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Menstruating women in religious temples

  1. sonu atma says:

    i have read your article and still not agree with the taboos about menstruation, whereby women are forbidden from attending religious ceremonies, however i do respect those rules. I am an indian woman and what i would like to comment as follows

    i am having a religious ceremony at home in two days and unfornunately my menses are coming. i am the only woman at home, with 3 men (husband and kids). i need to do the preparations for the prayers and even if i dont participate in the rituals, i dont have any choice in regards to getting everything ready. this is upsetting me and i wonder if it will not be a sin to even preparing the prayer stuffs. i pray god to forgive me because i am the only one at home who knows how to make my preparations, please enquire about this issue and reply to me.

    looking forward to your prompt reply.

    thanks a lot
    Sonu

  2. sonu atma says:

    what happen if a woman has organised a religious ceremony then she gets her menses during that time? can she prepare all prayer stuffs and someone else sits for the rituals? is this allowed ?

  3. Durga Lamichhane says:

    The menstruation period is called as unclean time because such rules are made by male or male supremacy.

  4. periods says:

    Thanks Yoga Dose for sharing an alternative. PS – Central Market carries The Diva Cup which is very similar to the options listed in your post.

  5. J says:

    Fascinating. On Judaism, see also Evyatar Marienberg, “Menstruation in Sacred Spaces: Medieval and Early-Modern Jewish Women in the Synagogue”, Nordisk Judaistik 25:1 (2004), pp. 7-16 (http://www.unc.edu/~evyatarm/ahp/chez/NJ25_1-Marienberg-Article-Synagogues.pdf)

  6. Divya says:

    (also posted on Menstruation Restriction, why is mens. blood seen as dangerous? post):

    You might be interested in researching the Tantric tradition of Hinduism. While Orthodox brahmanical Hindus believed menstruating women were polluted, this Tantric counter-culture, fueled by lower-caste, non-Aryan thought processes, and reminiscent of the female-icon worship of the Indus Valley civilization, tempered the ancient fear of powerful women and embraced her as the goddess:

    “The Goddesa is not only located at specific sites but is identified with the Earth and the landscape, so in one sense the whole of ‘India’ is the Goddess, to the ‘four corners’ of which a pilgrim can journey and receive great blessing…Here, the Goddess is worshiped in the form of a vulva and her menstrual cycle celebrated by adorning the icon with red powder.” (An Introduction to Hinduism, Flood, 2004 ed., 192-3).

    Obviously Hinduism is a complex, paradoxical religion, with thousands of different voices and texts, but my point is: don’t worry–even ancient cultures struggled with this taboo. In this case, they embraced it! The Goddess (sakti = female power; according to this women were associated with red blood, sun, action, etc. and therefore MORE POWERFUL than men ideologically–whoop whoop!) lived back then too! The pics you found online about Indian temples/restricting menstruating women comes from the orthodox Brahmanical view that women are passionate, distracting, earthly, polluted, cause attachment etc.. As a modern Hindu I reject this idea (though the Brahmin orthopraxy had some wicked cool ideas about cosomology and the like) and embrace my female body as natural and goddess-esque.

  7. paromita says:

    I PERSONALLY FEEL THAT IT IS EACH ONE’S PERSONAL CHOICE . THOSE WHO WISH TO ENTER TEMPLE DURING MENSTURATION CAN DO SO AND THOSE WHO DO NOT WANT TO ENTER TEMPLE LET THEM DO SO…THERE IS NO NEED TO ANNOUNCE TO EVERYONE THAT WHEN U R MENSTURATING AND WHEN U R NOT..

  8. Ann says:

    I think that in the true meaning of religion is to communicate with their God, and as mensruation is a natural process, it is not up to men to set stupid rules to ban women from worshipping when they have a period .
    If I have a cut or an injury and blood is present….I can still go then!
    Man made rules like this are stupid.

  9. Pingback: Menstruation Divide: The Most Personal But Most Powerful Matter | Erasmus Mundus Analytical Journalism 2013

  10. Hash Girnari says:

    Thank you for posting, my elders would never be able to explain me why??? or they simply do not want to discuss, the latter one i think because it is taboo to talk about.

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