Menstruation has always been a topic of concern for women and men worldwide. In developing countries, the knowledge regarding menstruation and guidelines to maintain proper hygiene is extremely less. Women still hesitate to pronounce the word in public, let alone talk about it. Women are not allowed to enter the kitchen or the puja room. They are not allowed to touch food items and participate in festivities. Even in educated families, women have to follow strict rules like sleeping on the floor, not touching any Male members and staying away from religious and cultural activities.
Menstruation is a unique phenomenon to girls in which bleeding occurs every month for 4-5 days as a result of failure of fertilization of the ovum by sperm. First menstruation or menarche is marked as the onset of puberty in girls. The last menstruation or menopause generally occurs between 40-50 years of age.
The cause of persistence of different myths regarding menstruation lies indirectly in the failure of sex education in Nepal. Sex education is still not conducted properly even in major schools of the country. Teachers shy away from talking about these things and students dont gain any knowledge when they actually should. Situation in the rural schools are much worse. Topics regarding menstruation and other related things as such are skipped in schools as a result of which boys and girls know little to nothing about their own body. Since parents and guardians also hesitate to give their children ‘the talk’, they have no place to gain knowledge about menstruation. This has been going on for generations and change has to be bought as soon as possible.
Prevalence of menstrual taboos are harming the physical, mental and emotional state of young girls and women. Majority of women in the country do not use sanitary pads and instead use old cloth and reuse it again. Such practices can result in diseases like Urinary tract infections, fungal infections and even cervical cancer. Lack of family support and communication can cause anxiety and other mental disturbances in young girls. Inadequate washing facilities may increase risk of infections, and the odor of menstrual blood and stains may put girls in the risk of being stigmatized and bullied. This may result in significant consequences for their mental health.
Steps have to be taken to combat all sorts of menstrual taboos and the consequences they give. Awareness should be started from the school level where girls and boys have to be given proper knowledge about sex education and menstruation. Sanitary pads have to be distributed freely in areas where their availability is less. Regarding other menstrual taboos like prohibition to participate in religious activities and entering the kitchen, changes have to be made from our and the forthcoming generation. We must adopt a new mindset and stop menstrual taboos as such once and for all.
Writer of this article studies MBBS in KUSMS ( 2nd year )