Monday, September 28, 2015


What was this covering of the head or face?  Why, in a women's hospital, did they need to be so covered.  And really, my personal experience with the anesthetist had been positive.  He was kind and compassionate of the women when we were in the operating room. 
When I asked later about the covering the doctors looked at me and shyly said, "This is because of purdah." 
In attempting to understand purdah, I discovered that although it means "curtain" in Persian, it is both religious and social.  It goes beyond the clothes and includes most other areas of life.  

Purdah means the physical separation of men and women.  Men must not see women.  Women do not see men. The women cover their heads and their faces, except for their eyes, as a form of purdah.  When a woman is married, then the only male that is to see her is her husband.  Therefore the covering of their bodies with the burqa, which may or may not include a veil over the eyes, protects them from being harassed by other men.
Although this is practiced in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other middle-eastern countries, it is also practiced by some Hindu's in Northern India.  That is the social side of this practice, in that it crossed different religions and different cultures  In some countries, purdah begins at puberty and for others it begins with marriage.  Recently it has been associated with being Muslim however, this is not necessarily true.
In thinking further about this, I wonder, is purdah about respect and protection or is it about control and ways to limit what women are allowed to do.  
Purdah does keep women from being actively engaged in their world.  They are not allowed to make decisions about leaving the home, for seeking medical care, going to the markets for food or supplies, or even what they will study in school Usually it also means that for a woman to leave her home she must be covered and accompanied by a male member of her family. 
Excerpt from Veritas M.D.

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