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Indonesian Muslims women perform an evening prayer called 'tarawih' marking the first eve of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 16, 2018. During Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from dawn to dusk.
Tatan Syuflana/AP
Girls & Women

Muslim Women Are Over All the Period-Shaming During Ramadan

As Muslims around the world celebrate Ramadan, some Muslim women have taken to social media to vent about cultural attitudes that exclude menstruating girls and women from partaking in the month-long fast. 

During Ramadan, the most sacred month of the year in the Islamic faith, those who observe the holy month fast every day from dawn until sunset. Although fasting is a central practice of Ramadan, not everyone is required to fast, including children, pregnant or nursing women, and women and girls who are menstruating.

Take Action: #ItsBloody Time to help Davinia & Nguzo get girls in Nigeria to school during their periods

Women and girls  don’t have to participate in the fasting and prayer rituals while on their periods because they’re considered less “pure” while menstruating —  but they aren’t simply excused. Instead, they are expected to make up the missed days of fasting as soon as their periods are over and they are ritually cleansed, said Faraz M. Sheikh, assistant professor with the Department of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary, in an interview with Teen Vogue.

But on Twitter over the past few weeks, many girls and women have aired their frustrations about being excluded from Ramadan traditions.

Some said the stigma surrounding periods makes them feel “dirty” and ashamed of a totally natural bodily function during holy month.

Others pointed out that the stigma attached to menstruation puts women in an especially difficult position during Ramadan because they can neither join in the prayers and fasting, nor eat in public without being shamed for not observing the fasting period.

As women’s tweets about period shame during Ramadan gained online attention, many have spoken up in support of women and girls, pointing out that menstruating is a totally normal part of life.

While the belief that women are “impure” during their periods is a cultural one and not a strictly religious one, similar taboos surrounding menstruation exist among several other religious communities. Such attitudes toward menstruating girls and women extend to Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist traditions as well.

Read more: A Ban by a 'River God' May Keep Ghanaian Girls Out of School During Their Periods

These beliefs prevent many women and girls around the world from fully participating in everyday life during their periods. In countries like Nepal, girls and women are isolated and confined to a hut during their periods as part of a cultural practice called “chaupadi.”

The social stigma surrounding periods and a lack of access to safe and affordable menstrual hygiene management resources also means that many girls miss school while menstruating. In sub-Saharan Africa, UNESCO estimates that 1 in 10 girls misses school during her period, adding up to as much as 20% of a school year.

But it’s time to put an end to these harmful attitudes toward a natural, human process. Global Citizen campaigns in support of gender equality and the elimination of discrimination in all its forms. You can take action here to tell world leaders that #ItsBloodyTime to end period stigma and ensure that girls can continue to get an education regardless of the time of the month.