Thursday Sep 29, 2022
Thursday Sep 29, 2022

Menstruation still taboo in Nepal

Unhealthy practices surrounding menstruation in Nepal are undermining the health and safety of women.

2022 Jun 02, 10:54, Kathmandu

Menstruation signals the beginning of womanhood, an aperture of the reproductive cycle women go through in their lives. Yet, this natural gift of menstruation is surrounded with taboos, stigma and dangerous unhealthy practices hindering women’s physical and mental health.

According to a study conducted by the population services international Nepal in 2018, only one in 10 adolescent girls in Nepal, practice good menstrual hygiene. This effects their education, physical health, psychological and emotional well-being and general quality of life.

Lack of access to clean water, pad disposal and cleaning facilities is resulting in poor hygiene practices among adolescents in Nepal. “Schools need to manage a resting room where female students, teachers and staff girls experiencing acute menstrual pain can take rest and change their clothes when required. The school management should also make hygienic pads available either for free or at affordable cost at the school,” says Guna Raj Shrestha, National convener for the Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management Partners' Alliance (MHMPA) Nepal.

It was found that washrooms in government schools were often not clean or private which resulted in most girls not changing their menstrual pads and clothes in schools, waiting for school hours to end in order to change menstrual pad and clothes. Several studies have shown that a significantly higher number, almost half the girls, reported that it was difficult to concentrate on their classes in schools due to the discomfort, pain and fear of leakage they face during their menstruation.

“In my recent visit to schools that supply free menstruation pads, I have found the school compound, bathrooms, playgrounds littered with used menstrual pads. Everyone is using chemical and plastic containing pads, which takes thousands of years to decompose in the environment, causing pollution in Nepal. Only distributing menstrual pads doesn't make any sense in terms of maintaining menstrual hygiene to me,” says Radha Paudel, the author of the internationally recognized book, ‘Dignified Menstruation: The Dignity of Menstruators throughout their Life Cycle’ and a prominent Nepali activist for women related issues.

“In one of the schools, I visited they distributed the pads for free, provided training on how to make cloth reusable pads, but teachers of the same school prohibit the students from entering the canteens while they are menstruating, and female teachers do not go to school, while they are menstruating which shows that unless and until we dismantle the stigma, taboo around menstruation, only distributing pads cannot bring about solutions,” says Paudel.

Until recent years, the majority of adolescent girls face exclusion in their menses in Nepal. The culture of exclusion also implements itself in the form of chhaupadi tradition in the far and mid - western hilly and mountainous region of Nepal. The tradition requires menstruating women to live in a ‘ chau goth’ (cowshed) while they are on their menses.

Recently World Vision International, a Christian global humanitarian aid organization working in Nepal for a long time, researched the reasons for practicing Chaupadi in Nepal as of 2021. Family obligations (70.8%) was found to be the major reason influencing the practice of Chaupadi, followed by fearing divine retribution (13.7%).

Numerous women and girls have fallen prey to violence including rape and attacks from wild animals, including snakes during their stay in the cowsheds. Addressing such vulnerabilities, Chaupadi was outlawed in 2005 by the Supreme Court of Nepal, but it still continues to be practiced in parts of Nepal.

While such harmful practices are existent mainly in rural areas, a study ‘Perception and Practices of menstruation restrictions among urban adolescents girls and women in Nepal’ 2020, confirmed the existence of social stigma in menstruation in the Kathmandu valley itself as 45.4 percent of women saw menstruation as a “curse”. The study concluded that there were ‘deep rooted’ cultural superstitions even among women in the urban areas of Kathmandu valley.


menstruation womanhood reproductive cycle government schools menstruation pads reusable pads Adolescent girls chhaupadi
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