By Sajan Subedi
In a country like Nepal where menstruation is taken as a taboo and shameful phenomenon, chhaupadi is still strongly intact in many places and discussing menstrual hygiene is still an icebreaker. Menstruation is a natural process in adolescent girls and women. Menstruation is the process in a woman of discharging blood and other materials from the lining of the uterus at intervals of about one lunar month from puberty until menopause, except during pregnancy.
Keeping a handful of exceptions aside, the subject itself is a taboo in even highly educated Nepali society. People still send their first time menstruating daughter to other people’s house for seven days where she is not allowed to touch things, come out in the sun, eat milk products, comb their hair and conduct worship.
From the second one, they are provided a separate set of utensil, bedclothes, and room to stay during their periods at their own house. They are not allowed to touch things and especially men. If they touch a man, he will have to take a bath and replace the sacred thread with a new one as it becomes impure. The main reason behind this may be the rooted beliefs which we have been fed by society and interpreters of the Shashtras. Most of us are brought up by listening to various moral and religious stories like Shrimad Bhagwat, Swasthani, Devi Purana etc. Instances from such stories become guiding norms for us in our society and day to day life.
There is an instance in Shirmad Bhagwata regarding the blood of menstruation. According to Bhagwat Puana, Kali (one of four Yugas, the demonic one) was allowed to stay in menstrual blood of women along with other places by King Parikshit. So the people, who have been continuously listening to the story of King Parikshit since generations through Bhagwat Purana, heed the menstrual blood as inauspicious due to the stay of Kali. So, the days of menstruation and the menstruating person is taken as inauspicious or impure or untouchable. We are still not able to accept the discharge of something from the human body as a biological phenomenon, rather we take it as a sin relating it with the stories we are brought up listening to.
It is high time that we raised awareness regarding the menstruation as a natural process and the importance of hygiene during the period to make people gradually accept the phenomenon as a regular process in women and adolescent girls.
The Himalayan Times, May 30, 2017