An Indian woman has launched a social media campaign to challenge sexist prejudices about menstruation that have seen women reportedly banned from entering a temple.
A young Indian woman has started the #HappyToBleed campaign in response to a statement from a temple chief saying menstruation was impure.
Nikita Azad, 20, launched the campaign on November 21 after writing an open letter to the chief of the Hindu Sabarimala temple, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, decrying his comments about female worshippers.
"A time will come when people will ask if all women should be disallowed from entering the temple throughout the year," Indian media reported him saying.
"These days there are machines that can scan bodies and check for weapons. There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the 'right time' (not menstruating) for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside."
In Azad's letter she wrote: "Your statement has left me dumbstruck, by breaking every belief I had in God".
"All men who enter the temple are a product of sexual intercourse done by a man and a woman," she wrote.
"Aren’t all the men who enter the temple product of the blood formed in their mothers’ uteruses? Sir, I have no interest in entering the temple, for I refuse to believe in a God that considers his own children impure. But, I wish to ask you, with which God’s permission are you proposing that my purity be checked?"
Azad's #HappyToBleed campaign has attracted attention in India and around the world and reignited the debate around the right of women and the superstitions around menstruation.
Indian men have also supported the campaign.
In response to the global attention, Azad posted a long statement on her Facebook page further justifying the campaign.
"Some friends have argued that we actually don't need to enter the temples, or follow a religion which discriminates, for that matter," she wrote.
"Let us be clear, this is not a temple-entry campaign. This campaign is an initiative against sexism, and the taboos it upheld since ages.
"The class structure has created various forms of patriarchy like locking women in kitchens, reducing her contribution in production processes, considering her a reproductive machine, attaching the 'honour' tag, objectifying her as an object of sexual pleasure, impurity during menses etc.
"While recognising all manifestations, we particularly chose menstrual taboos as an immediate response to the statement, but it does not mean that we do not acknowledge more acute representations."
Azad wrote that the use of the word happy in the hashtag was designed to be "satire, a taunt, a comment, on patriarchal forces which attach the understanding of purity-impurity of women with menstruation".
"A lot of other slogans are being used in the campaign by women participants like Lal Salaam, Smash Patriarchy, I don't bleed blue, I bleed red etc which are equally relevant and increase the range of the campaign," she wrote.
"We would certainly welcome other slogans which speak against feudal-patriarchal culture."