#IamKutri

There can be nothing sacred about a woman being called kutri for cooking during her period. #IamKutri campaign by Mirror and Mahila Manch aims to strike at and empty the reservoir of misogyny that is masked by the veil of sacredness. Our women deserve respect and a taboo-free world. Come, join the campaign.

| Team AM

Kutri in Gujarati is not a decent word. Kutri as a word is derogatory and vulgar. Agreed.

But that’s the point.

Two events happened recently that has inspired this campaign. On one hand, women were granted permanent commission in the Army’s noncombat support units on par with men after SC calling the claims of ‘physiological limitations of women’ bizarre.

Around the same time, in Bhuj, in our Vibrant Gujarat, 68 girls of the Shri Sahajanand Girls Institute (SSGI) were paraded in their college ground and then hustled to restrooms where they had to remove their underpants and give an evidence to the college authorities that they were not menstruating. So why did this happen?

Because the college, which is run by a Swaminarayan Sect (there are several of them, all equally popular and powerful) has a strict rule that if a girl is in her periods, she has to remain locked in a basement with her co-menses girls for three days. A girl in her periods is rendered impure, threat and a danger if she is let out.

Girls in their periods cannot enter their hostel’s mess (dining hall) and they cannot even enter their own rooms! To make this happening even more pathetic, we stumbled upon a video of Swami Krushnaswarupdasji of the same Bhuj Mandir where he asked men to learn cooking.

Religious saints in India have a clout that no Bollywood star, cricketer or a politician can even aspire for. Across religions whether it is Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism, Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism or Islam, religious figures have the last word.

We would have been glad if this Swami Krushnaswarup Das ji had just asked men to learn cooking, but no. He said that even if you eat food once in your life that is prepared by a woman in her periods, you will go to hell and be reborn as an ox. For women, he was even harsher. He said, if women prepare food while they are menstruating and feed it even once to their husbands, of course, they will be reborn as bitches. Kutri in Gujarati, the Indian language the saint used, is a curse, a derogatory word.

Menstruation is different for everyone. Some people are okay carrying on their daily tasks. Some experience severe discomfort and pain. A period leave is a fallacy in most organisations and corporate houses. Some women are comfortable to swim, play outdoor games or dance while others do not feel well enough to even make themselves a cup of tea.

Work must go on

So there cannot be a generalisation. We spoke to over 150 women and found that most of them have no option but to cook at home or even if they are not cooking, they are touching food. We were especially moved by a woman who works as a cook in six different houses in Ahmedabad. We made her hear the spiritual religious discourse. First of all, she was scared that Gods would punish her.

But her immediate reaction was “hu kevi rite raja lav? Maaru menses to paanch divas chale chhe. Ghar ma kamava wali hu ekaj chhu. Bhagwan mane kutri banave to banave pan rasoi to karvi j padshe”. (How can I take leave? My menstruation goes on for five days. I am the sole bread earner of my family. If God wishes to make me a bitch in my next birth, he may if he wants to but I will have to cook and touch food). Her God is male, she is scared of being reborn as a street bitch, a kutri, but she cannot give up her job, her cooking.

Our WhatsApp, Twitter, Signal, Instagram, Facebook all are flooded with private messages after we changed the display picture to #IamKutri. Mahila Manch, our feisty campaign partner and Ahmedabad Mirror do not mean anything derogatory.

We are raising our voice to begin a conversation in this country over menstruation, the senseless taboos and myths associated with it. This is NOT an all-woman campaign. This is people’s campaign. This campaign is going to be leaderless and faceless but not voiceless.

Taboo-free future

Each and every revolution in this country, in fact all around the world has happened when common men and women like us take it up. #IamKutri is a campaign to ensure a safe, good future for your mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend. It is to ensure they do not have to live amidst taboos that say even a shadow of a menstruating woman can wreck someone’s life or spoil the pickle at home or contaminate the water of the entire village.

Maybe centuries ago, rest to women during menstruation was a pious thought to keep her off work and daily chores, but to dictatorially implement it in the present era is nothing but unadulterated discrimination.

Hence, the campaign #Iam-Kutri – a protest movement led by Ahmedabad Mirror, Mahila Manch and the 21st century Indians against misogynists who resort to period shaming that attacks the very core of our self-worth. Sorry, we are not going to take this lying down.

If cooking makes menstruating women kutri, so be it. This is OUR way of hitting back at and shaming the misogynists.

#IAmKutri is a concerted effort by people to strike at and empty the reservoir of misogyny that is masked by the veil of sacredness. Women are revered as goddesses – they are called Adi Para Shakti – the mystique feminine power that creates and destroys the world and its demons.

There can be nothing sacred about the very mortals who exist because of a woman, shaming her by calling her kutri. Let’s also call out the hypocrisy, please.

This is a long fight and it is not going to be easy. Threats from religious bodies and veiled threats and cautionary messages from politicians and so called self-serving well-wishers have begun but nope, we are not going to “cow” down or “kutri” down. I am okay being a Kutri because I do not want to succumb to forces and authorities who baselessly are shaming women in menstruation.

We reclaim the period. It is ours. It comes from our body. We don’t let it get in the way of our day-to-day business, and it should be none of anyone else’s business. Mirror has joined hands with Mahila Manch, an Ahmedabadbased stand-up comedy collective, founded by two feisty women, that uses stand-up comedy for social change and profound messages that otherwise get lost in loud, serious chatters.

We are planning a host of events and this will not be possible without your involvement so let’s celebrate and shout #IamKutri.

We expect all reading this piece to explain the campaign to at least 10 non-English audience and shoot their video as well in ANY language and send it to us along with your videos.

This campaign does not have any leader. It is your campaign. We are just facilitators who want to amplify your voice. This is how you can make your point.

1 If you are a woman, send 30-second videos in any language talking about what your routine is during your menstruation days. End the video with the hashtag

#IamKutri.

2 If you are a man, make 30-sec videos talking about what your daughters, mothers, sisters, wives, friends, partners do during their periods. And how as a male, you let her be. Use hashtrag

#IamfatherofKutri / #IamfriendofKutri / IamuncleofKutri / IamhusbandofKutri / IamgrandfatherofKutri / IamsonofKutri

3 You can send us the videos on:

WhatsApp: 08320530590

Instagram: @AhmedabadMirrorOfficial or @mahilamanch

Twitter: @ahmedabadmirror or @AsliMahilaManch

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