The ‘Uncleanliness’ of Menstruation: An African Feminist Reading of Lev. 15:19-24

  • Emem Opoku-Agyemang Dept. for the Study of Religions, University of Ghana
Keywords: Communicative Approach to African Hermeneutics, Euphemism, Ghana, Lev. 15:19-24, Menstruation, Taboo


In Ghana, as in many other countries in Africa, the natural phenomenon of menstruation is considered taboo. People cannot speak freely about it but resort to the use of euphemisms, which made it difficult if not impossible to sensitize the public on the health effects of using unsanitary products like rags and used cloths as pads. This attitude is not only contemporary but can also be found in the Bible. It is against this backdrop that the article investigates the perceived ‘uncleanness’ of menstruation through a literary analysis of Lev. 15:19-24. To engage the text and Ghanaian reality, the paper employs the Communicative approach to African Biblical Hermeneutics from a feminist perspective. Major findings are that both Jewish and Ghanaian cultures regard menstruation as a time that restricts women’s movement in cult, society, and the home. The article advocates for a change of perspective knowing that what God has created cannot render the physical sacred space impure. The focus of the church should be on the ‘new’ sacred space, which is the human body (1 Cor. 6:19). Therefore, caring for the body implies personal hygiene but entails creating an inclusive environment, free from any form of discrimination perpetuated by cultural traditions that are not only anachronistic but harmful and against the Gospel’s message.