By Alma Bengio
The topic of menstruation has been taboo for centuries. Getting your period was perceived as being unclean and impure. It was believed that a menstruator was not hygienic during their period, and even ancient religious texts indicate how sexual intercourse should be avoided during menstruation.
The fact that periods have been a taboo for centuries makes it a controversial topic to talk about. Often, speaking about them can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, even dangerous in some societies and amongst certain groups of people. Needless to say, there is a stigma attached to the natural process of our bodies that not everyone has managed to normalize and accept.
While many of us have the luxury of being in circles that understand the normality of getting our periods and how speaking about it can provide more comfort and allow us to feel understood and not alone, in many places this is not the case.
Take the case of Nepalese women in the far-western district Achham. Their culture instructs that menstruating women are "polluted and impure." This common belief has led to the practice of Chhaupadi, a tradition of “untouchability” where women are confined to a menstruation hut for the duration of their period (1). If the isolation doesn’t sound horrific in itself, the living conditions of these huts are inhumane. Many don’t even offer toilets, proper ventilation, electricity, and unfortunately, women have died during these periods due to dehydration, and illnesses caused by the living circumstances (1).
While some may think that in today’s day and age period taboos have been reduced to simply not being able to talk about menstruation with certain types of people, we cannot disregard the many areas of the world that violate basic human rights due to the serious historical and cultural stigma surrounding getting your period.
- Practice and lived experience of menstrual exiles (Chhaupadi) among adolescent girls in far-western Nepal https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6287853/