Caste system makes menstrual health management an uphill task

By Sampada Anuranjanee Khatiwada

gasKathmandu, Aug. 30:Menstrual health management among girls and women has become an uphill task in the areas where traditional caste system has dominated, revealed a study “We found that restrictions around menstrual health management to be more intense and rigid in locations where Hindu caste system dominates,” said Laxmi Tamang, President, Midwifery Society in Nepal. 

The Tamang-led society conducted the study on menstrual practices in 24 villages and 12 districts of the country. Along with restriction, lack of awareness among youngsters has also
led to poor menstrual health management, she said.
In an ethnographic study of purity vs pollution during menstrual practices in Nepal done by Midwifery Society Nepal, it has been found that menstruation is still a taboo, especially in Karnali and Sudur Paschim States. The study was carried out with a purpose of understanding girls’ perspective on menstruation. The study revealed that the normal age of Menarche in Nepalese girls is 10 to 16, while the average age is 13 to 15.
The study concluded that role of parents and other key influencers such as friends and sisters were significant in shaping young girls’ perception towards menstruation.
Most of the girls claim that they came to know about menstruation from their menarche itself while others said that their mothers and sisters had made them aware about it, the study revealed.
Tamang said that socio-religious practice of restrictions during menstruation have been passing from generation to generation, mostly in Baitadi, Achham and Mugu districts.
“Girls, during their menstruation are restricted from entering the kitchen, touching holy books and in the two States, even from going to schools,” said Tamang. “Also, the problem of disposal of sanitary pads and lack of proper facilities in schools is prominent.”
Tamang said that the number of girls getting education about menstrual health from schools and teachers was very low.
“In order to remove the cultural and psychological barriers that the society has created for menstrual hygiene, awareness campaigns must be done at the utmost level, with proper mobilisation of youths,” said Tamang.
“Since our study mostly focused on how girls perceive menstruation, it is found out that some of the youngsters have been brainwashed to view menstruation as a taboo,” said Sachin Ghimire, medical anthropologist. “During our research, some girls said that if they did not follow the restrictions, god might cause misfortune to their family,” he said.
Ghimire said that disposal of sanitary pads was also an issue; people had a notion that if someone saw the disposed pads, they would become infertile.
“The rigid cultural ideologies regarding restrictions during menstruation have been backed up by patriarchy and to diminish these beliefs is an uphill battle,” said Ghimire.
Ghimire said that the only way to reduce the regressive patterns of menstrual practices was to include men in the awareness generating programmes on menstrual hygiene.
Also, health educators in s
chools must be trained so that they become able to further train their students, said Ghimire.

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