Menstruation is part of the female reproductive cycle that starts when girls become sexually mature. Several studies have revealed a range of physical and psychosocial factor affecting this phenomenon. The aim was to study the physical and psychological impacts of menstruation on girls. It is an exploratory and descriptive research conducted in Kathmandu, Nepal. The study was conducted among girls studying in their Bachelors level of college in Golden Gate International College located in Battisputali, Kathmandu. Data was collected using an online questionnaire and focused group discussion. Data was analyzed using some statistical measures as well as analysis is done in descriptive paragraph form. Majority of girls attained menarche at 12 to 13 years of age. Majority of the girls had knowledge about this cycle before they had it however only one of them was mentally prepared for it to happen. Except for one, every respondent has medical condition during the period and has chronic stomachache and lower pain. Restrictions were imposed on the girls due to customs and traditions, especially related to visiting places of worship during this period. Both the physical and psychological pressure that comes with menstruation cycle every month has resulted in most of the girls experience low self-esteem or low self-confidence, seeing it as a burden rather than a gift which male don’t have to go through. Based on the findings of this study and analysis of the findings, it is realized that this age group of girls, studying in college level still are burdened under the taboos and myths associated with the menstruation cycle.
Keywords: Adolescence, Girls, Menstruation, Physical & Psychological Impacts.
1.1 Introduction to the issue
Biological Explanation of Menstruation:
Shortly after the beginning of puberty in girls, and usually about 2 years after the development of breasts, menstruation starts. While menstruation usually begins between ages 12 and 13, it may happen at a younger or older age.
During a period, there are relatively heavy bleeding of blood and cells from the lining of the uterus usually for 2/3 days followed by another 2-4 days of lighter flow occurring about every 28 days. The fluid during a menstrual period is a mixture of uterine lining tissue and blood. The total monthly menstrual loss varies from about 4 to 12 teaspoons.
The first menstrual period is called “menarche. This onset of menstruation, menarche, signals the body’s coming readiness for childbearing. It continues, unless interrupted by pregnancy until menopause The menstrual cycle is about four weeks long, starting on the first day of bleeding and ending when the next period begins. However, it can vary greatly when a girl first starts her period. It may skip months or come several times per month in the beginning.
In the first phase of each cycle, the lining, or endometrium, of the uterus undergoes rapid proliferation of cells and venous channels in preparation for pregnancy. Midway through the cycle an ovum (egg) is released from an ovary. If, while passing through the fallopian tube the ovum is fertilized by a sperm, implantation in the uterus occurs and the thickened lining helps support the pregnancy. When the ovum is not fertilized, this tissue and blood are shed. The proliferation of the uterine wall then begins once more in expectation of the next release of an ovum, and if conception does not take place, it sloughs off again. The process continues monthly until pregnancy occurs or until ovulation ceases at menopause.
The natural rhythm of the menstrual cycle may be broken or temporarily halted by hormonal imbalance, malnutrition, illness, or emotional disturbance. Menstruation is controlled by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland and hormones, such as estrogen, which prepares the lining of the uterus, and progesterone, which helps maintain a pregnancy.
Social Concept of Menstruation:
Though menstruation is a biological reality, culture-bound values shape its meaning and management. Social and religious traditions regard menstrual fluid as ritually impure and thus menstruating girls/women as untouchables. Menstrual taboos shape many religious and secular practices across the globe. As a result, though there is not a comprehensive cross-cultural comparison of menstruation, anthropologists have reported extensively on various cultural practices surrounding menstruation ranging from severe social restriction to special respect and privilege for menstruating women. Most commonly, menstruating woman is banned from religious rites, sex, and/or food preparation.
Historically, although menstruation cycle is a very natural phenomenon, a bodily process that every average girl goes through every month after entering the puberty age, there are a lot of issues that surrounds it and has become a matter of shame and ridiculing for female in the society. Myth like menstruation is a disease or a curse and it leads up to beliefs like a woman’s body is polluted when she is experiencing periods. Menstruation was a mystery before science could explain it. So, a lot of different ideas and beliefs were created to explain periods in ancient societies and cultures. Many such ideas and beliefs have been proven wrong by science, but they are still followed in current societies. We call these ideas menstrual myths. Different societies have their own different taboos related to the cycle and they drag down the girls from their general growth in their community and also when they go in the outside world.
In the Context of Nepal:
Menstruation is generally considered as unclean in context of society of Nepal. Earlier, most of the rural Nepalese people used to think that, signs of puberty and menstrual cycles signified the girl as being potentially capable of getting married and bear children.
Menstrual taboos with socio cultural aspect among Nepalese society generally create chaos among adolescence girl who has her first experience of menstruation which is called menarche.
Taboos at first menstruation include complete isolation of adolescence girls for about two weeks, without even seeing the sunlight. They are supposed to avoid seeing brothers, fathers and other male members of the society.
As a ritual, menstruating women are forbidden to participate in any religious ceremony and also cannot touch any family members while she is menstruating. During menstruation, they are prohibited from participating normal life activities including cooking and eating together with in a family. Meanwhile, the tradition of seclusion is diverse ranging from eastern part to far western part of Nepal.
Eastern part of Nepal seems to be fragile in continuing this traditional taboo following menstruation cycle by seclusion of woman having periodic cycle for four days and abandon social and house hold activities but the condition seems to be worse in the far western and mid-western part of Nepal. This religious taboo is normally called “Chaupadi pratha” in the mid and far western part of the country and hence not only includes seclusion but totally banished from house and is forced to live in cowshed or similar unsanitary place without proper environment to live such as without light and ventilation and which are very much dangerous to live which has resulted in several problems like rape, snake bites, death due to suffocation as those sheds are not well ventilated.
1.2 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY:
Nepal is a multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-racial country. People coming from different communities have their own beliefs, values, norms based on their culture. However there is one thing that prevails in most of those cultures and that is stigmatization of menstruation process.
Menstruation cycle is a natural biological process that every girl has to go through every month till they have their menopause. This cycle gives female the power to conceive and bear babies. However, as natural and normal it is, it has always been seen as a stigma, a taboo, that isn’t accepted as something natural, rather it is seen as a matter of disgust, shame and impurity.
Periodic menstrual cycle among females in Nepalese society is considered as “untouchable” since decades and still continued in the present context as well. The term untouchable implies with all the things which are in contact with the specific woman having periodic cycle. A woman having periodic cycle is normally kept under seclusion for four days during her menstrual cycle every month. Seclusion can be isolated in a room for days or in extreme cases having to live in isolation or in cowsheds in rural areas. Seclusion along with disruption and restriction in daily life activities go in parallel. Restriction includes not allowed to visit the place of worship, or entering the kitchen, barred from cooking, touching utensils, flowers and male members.
It has been noticed, witnessed and studied that such taboos and stigmas related to the menstrual cycle are not only deeply rooted in the rural areas where people are not exposed to the knowledge and information but, though not as extreme as in the rural areas, we can also find such taboos prevalent and followed by the people living in urban areas those of whom are well-educated, well-employed and well-informed, who many of whom still struggle and find it difficult to ignore and devalue these taboos as they have been normalized to the point where they have become a part of the culture and religion and their lifestyle and people have adapted with it.
It is in view of the foregoing that the researcher seeks to examine the physical and psychological impacts of menstruation on the girls and examine how they are affected and what they think of it.
1.3 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM:
During the menstruation cycle, girls not only go through physiological difficulties but are immensely and adversely pressurized psychologically due to several social stigmas and taboos that is associated with the whole process of menstruation. Such beliefs that associates the menstrual cycle as a matter of shame and disgust and impurity cause discrimination against women and at times, can lower your self-esteem and opportunities for growth. This situation is a problem for a society in general because women are the ‘better half’ of every society. In such situation this research aims to find out different difficulties both physical and psychological ones, faced by girls coming from different communities and thus tries to find out and suggest way of tackling it.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY:
Menstruation cycle has been a reason for depriving girls and women of their dignity, worth and freedom. Such violation of female’s rights is employed through associating several taboos with this natural process of menstruation. These taboos even today have its stronghold in both rural and urban societies in Nepal. People still are not comfortable to talk about menstruation openly, to teach about it as a natural process that every single girl has to go through so that one can be prepared for it, menstruation is still a matter of secrecy and shame and impurity that certain practices like not allowing menstruating girls/women to visit place of worship, or enter kitchen, barring from cooking or to extreme cases having to live in isolation or in cowsheds in rural areas.
Menstruation is such a natural process that every girls go experiences after entering their puberty and it is absolutely wrong to encourage and continue different myths associated with the menstrual cycle that undermines a girl’s dignity and freedom in her personal and social life. There is a need to talk about this issue more so that people can do away with the myth by bringing in and learning more rational and logical concepts about the cycle. People are not comfortable talking about it and thus talk about it only in secrecy and this research is significant as it initiates a discussion on a topic that is a taboo in order to normalize it so that there can be more acceptability, flexibility and openness among people to talk about it on a wider range in the
society to tackle the taboos associated with it
1.5 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY:
1.5.1 General objectives:
The general objectives of this research is to initiate the discussion on the issue as a first step towards dealing with the social stigmas surrounding the issue by normalization and putting forward ways to deal with the problem.
1.5.2 Specific objectives
The research has following specific objectives:
- To find out the physiological and psychological impacts of menstruation among girls coming from different backgrounds.
- To learn about different experiences related to menstrual process that the respondents have had or continue to have and also find out what they think and what their conceptions are on the issue and how they see it and feel about it
1.6. LIMITATION OF THE STUDY:
- The study has been conducted on girls of only one age-group that is of 19-24 and thus their experiences and perceptions on menstruation cannot be generalized with the girls and women of other age groups. They might or might not be similar.
Menstrual cycle is created by a unique egg and its surrounding cells; these produce hormones under careful feedback control by brain and pituitary hormones. A usual menstrual cycle begins with 2-6 days of vaginal blood loss (called a “period” or “flow”) as the uterine lining is shed. Whole period blood loss averages 8 soaked regular menstrual products (40 ml) (Hallberg, Hogdahl, Nillson, & Rybo, 1966).
Menarche, or first menstruation, is one of the last pubertal changes, occurring after breast bud and pubic hair development. Menarche can occur as early as age 8 and as late as 17 (Hilliard, 2002). The development of full reproductive maturity, however, takes several years. With respect to girls in western culture, early menstruation can be challenging for girls; some experience negative outcomes regarding sexuality and body image (e.g., Mendle, Turkheimer, & Emery, 2007; Posner, 2006). Whether girls are experiencing early puberty related to early menarche is a controversial issue (Dorn & Rotenstein, 2004). Tirls have mixed, but mostly negative feelings about menstruation: they see it as a sign of growing up but are also embarrassed about it (Stubbs, 2008). Preparation leads to more positive attitudes and experiences (e.g., McPherson & Korfine, 2004). For example, supportive, engaged mothers who react in a matter-of-fact way can buffer widespread negative cultural messages about menstruation (Lee, 2008).
Though menstruation is a biological reality, culture-bound values shape its meaning and management. Though there is not a comprehensive cross-cultural comparison of menstruation, anthropologists have reported extensively on various cultural practices surrounding menstruation ranging from severe social restriction to special respect and privilege for menstruating women (Mead, 1949; Shuttle & Redgrove, 2005; Knight, 1991). In most cultures, menarche (the onset of menstruation) is viewed as differentiating males and females.
In contemporary advertising venues, menstruation is most often coupled with dominant and recurring themes of secrecy and concern for restrictions on physical and social activity. In advertisements for drugs marketed for menstrual discomfort, the menstrual cycle is treated as a “hygienic crisis” (Brumberg, 1997), a medical condition, and a “problem” or malady requiring treatment (Tavris, 1992; Angier, 1999; Ussher, 2006; Vostral, 2008). One recent study, however, suggests that teen girls use their menstrual experiences as a “source of power” in their interactions with other girls as well as boys (Fingerson, 2006).
Menstrual taboos shape many religious and secular practices across the globe (Delaney, et al, 1988; Knight, 1991; Laws, 1990; Van de Walle & Renne, 2001). For example, certain religious traditions regard menstrual fluid as ritually impure and thus, the menstruating woman is banned from religious rites, sex, and/or food preparation (Delaney, etal, 1988; Douglas, 1966; Houppert, 1999; Knight, 1991, Mendlinger & Cwikel, 2006; Stein & Kim, 2009). Theorists, including psychoanalysts Freud (1962) and Horney (1967) tried to account for the existence of menstrual taboos; the former claimed that menstrual taboos were an attempt to control women while the latter contended that male fear of menstruation had roots in castration anxiety. Some feminists critique the uses of taboo to disenfranchise women (Bobel, 2010; Delaney, et al, 1988)
Adolescence in girls has been considered as a transition phase from girlhood to womanhood. Menstruation is generally considered as unclean in context of society of Nepal. Earlier, most of the rural Nepalese people used to think that, signs of puberty and menstrual cycles signified the girl as being potentially capable of getting married and bear children. (Joshi,2009.)
Isolation in their own home, social and religious restrictions brings feeling of awkwardness among menstruating girls. Taboos at first menstruation include complete isolation of adolescence girls for about two weeks, without even seeing the sunlight. They are supposed to avoid seeing brothers, fathers and other male members of the society. Meanwhile, postponing study creates emotional imbalance making themselves as “untouchable “which is really challenging. It may bring emotional changes among adolescence girls who are not prepared for the periodic cycle of their life in context to scenario of Nepal. (Burbank, 2002)
Adolescence already brings physical and physiological changes within a female body. Menstrual taboos with socio cultural aspect among Nepalese society generally create chaos among adolescence girl who has her first experience of menstruation which is called menarche.
As a ritual, menstruating women are forbidden to participate in any religious ceremony and also cannot touch any family members while she is menstruating. During menstruation, they are prohibited from participating normal life activities including cooking and eating together with in a family. (Adhikari,2007.)
3.1 Research design
This research will be descriptive and exploratory in nature. It will portray and describe the physiological and psychological of the menstruation cycle and also explore different myths and their impacts as the underlying causes of the problem that the girls suffer.
3.2 Sample Design and Size:
The sample size for the study will be 20. The 20 girls belong to the age group of 18-25 and all the samples are Bachelor’s level students.
3.3 Study Area:
A study area is geography for which data is analyzed in a report and/or map. The study was conducted among the girl students of Golden Gate International College located in Battisputali, Kathmandu, Nepal.
A sample is a subset, or some part, of a larger population. This research has used the convenient sampling method to select the samples as a source of data for the research.
3.5 Data Collection Method:
The two main methods used in this research to collect were:
(A) Survey: A survey is a research technique in which information is gathered from a sample of people using a questionnaire. In this study a questionnaire is used as the primary means to collect the data from the population. The survey was conducted using questionnaires which have open-ended as well as close-ended questions.
(B) Focused Group Discussion: It is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people from similar backgrounds or experiences are gathered together to discuss a specific topic of interest where they are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. The researcher used the Focused Group Discussion method with some of the respondents to get more in-depth information on the thoughts and experiences.
3.6 Data Collection Tools:
For the collection of primary data, the researcher used a mixed questionnaire that was either filled up on printed papers or through email with the use of Google Docs. Along with it, focused group discussion is also used in order to gain first-hand experience and views from the samples where open-ended question were asked.
For the collection of secondary data, the researcher reviewed literature from various online articles, different published researches, different websites and different reports from individual researchers as well as various research groups and organization on the same issue.
3.7 Data Representation and Analysis
Representation is the description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature. For this study, the data will be represented using various graphical tools like pie-chart, tables, bar graphs, etc.
Analysis is the application of reasoning to understand and interpret the data that have been collected. For this study, the data analysis will be done in descriptive paragraph style.
3.8 Ethical Considerations:
During the study, the ethical norms were followed throughout the process:
- The purpose and objectives of the research was clearly communicated with the concerned person
- Identity of all the participants are made anonymous
- All the participants were given their personal space and time to take the questionnaire.
- All data collected for the study was utilized only for the purpose of research and confidentiality will be highly maintained.
RESULTS & INTERPRETATION
Findings and Data representation:
- 60% of the respondents had little or more information about menstruation before they first had it. Their source of knowledge was mainly their sisters and friends.
- Most of the respondents had their first period at the age of 11, 13 & 14.
- 95% of the respondents have medical conditions during their period. Many had multiple while few had single medical condition.
- Nearly half the respondents consider themselves impure during their menstrual cycle either physically or spiritually.
- Practice of isolating girls during their first menstruation is still practiced and almost half the respondents have been through it.
- Except for 3 respondents, all are bound to follow certain restrictions imposed by their family or society when they are menstruating.
- 85% of the respondents see menstrual cycle as a burden and more than half them preferred never to have it at all.
4.2 DATA ANALYSIS
All the answers received through the online survey conducted and different data and information collected from other sources are thoroughly studied and based on that, an in depth analysis on this issue is presented under 3 major topics:
(A) Physical Implications:
Menstrual cycle is a biological process every girl/woman go through every month in average. In this process, they bleed blood along with cells and tissues from their genital lines as a result of unfertilized eggs that go wasted. This cycle is a painful endeavor for almost every girl/woman. Medically speaking, prostaglandins are chemicals a woman’s body produces that cause many of the symptoms associated with menstrual discomfort. The tissue that lines the uterus makes these chemicals. Prostaglandins stimulate the uterine muscles to contract. Women who have high levels of prostaglandin may experience more intense contractions of their uterus and more pain. Prostaglandins may also be responsible for vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches that accompany painful periods.
In this research, nearly all women report having experienced stomachache/cramps (85 percent), lower back pain (65 percent), nausea (20 percent), headache(15 percent) and others that include dizziness, fever, weakness, low blood pressure and sleepiness(30%).
During such pain and discomfort, only 2 respondents tend to have painkillers whereas majority of them use household remedies like using hot bag, taking warm drinks, wrapping shawls, taking hot showers or simply taking a nap.
“When I was at school, it was very difficult for me to attend class during my first day of period. Still I remember I used to take 2 tablets almost during my period called meftazol.
But it has been almost 3 to 4 years I have stopped taking pills and tablets.
I have hot water and hot water bag and take rest instead of medicines.”
These physical hazards caused during menstrual cycle disturb their daily personal functioning as well as their academic and professional lives. When asked if they miss their school, college or job during your monthly period, almost half the respondents (40 percent) replied yes.
“I lay in bed whole day as the pain is unbearable and prevents me from my daily functioning.”
(B) Psychological Implications:
It has been proposed and explained well enough through various studies and researches that menstrual cycles have huge psychological impacts along with physical pain and difficulties. For a minor girl to enter her puberty age, going through drastic physical changes among which menstruation being a significant one, it puts them in a psychologically confusing and incomprehensible position where they first have difficulty in understanding it and then the challenge of dealing with it and in adaptation.
When asked about their initial response/reaction when they first had their menstruation, only one respondent said she was prepared while the rest 19 dealt with various emotions and feelings like scared & anxious (90 percent), stressed (50 percent), disgusted (20 percent), and others (25 percent) which includes excited, sad, awkward, neutral and shocked.
Menstruation process last till a woman reaches the state of menopause which usually occurs at around the age of 50. Female have to go through this process for almost throughout their life until their body starts to grow old. In between, they go through several psychological ups and downs. 65% of the respondents replied that they experience mood swings during their period.
Similarly, this cycle along with its physical and psychological implications, it has also been strongly associated with so many taboos in our society that girls tend to lose their self-worth, self-esteem and self-confidence while having periods. They create a barrier not only technically but psychologically as well. When asked whether they experience low self-confidence and self-esteem when you have to start an important work during monthly period, more than half of the respondents i.e. 60% of them said yes while 40% expressed it doesn’t affect their confidence.
“Yes, because sometimes menstruation can ruin our clothes and completely destroy our confidence”
“Yes i do. It makes me conscious of all the hazards that come with my period.”
“no, having periods has nothing to do with low self-esteem, in fact i like it when i get my periods because i feel girly and maybe even feel better about myself.”
Menstruation has been one of the reasons for shaming and ridiculing girls and women from the long past which still exist today. As a result, girls and women are consumed with over self-consciousness out of stress, worry and fear about menstruation and its hazards. There are fears that are so normal that everybody including the women and girls themselves tend to fail in seeing such fear as results of social stigmatization. When asked, during period majority of the respondents say they are fearful of having stains (90%), of others seeing pad (60%) and of wearing light clothes (90%). However, there is a 50-50 reaction on fear of people figuring out that they are menstruating.
(C) Social Implications:
Though menstruation is a biological reality, culture-bound values shape its meaning and management. Social and religious traditions regard menstrual fluid as ritually impure and thus menstruating girls/women as untouchables. Menstrual taboos shape many religious and secular practices across the globe which have for a very long time served as underlying reasons social restriction. Most commonly, menstruating woman is banned from religious rites, sex, and/or food preparation.
For those girls who experience menstruation for the first time, they remain physically unprepared and psychologically confused, shocked, scared. In addition to that, social taboos add the burden of “impure” and “untouchable” tags, isolation and seclusion which furthers the difficult experience for them. Although more than half of the respondents (65 percent) mention experiencing none of the acts of isolation during their first time menstruation, however the rest 35 percent respondents have admitted to some painful experiences during their first time.
“Yes, as according to the Hindu society, there is a culture to stay away from dad and male members of the family, so i was forced to stay at my marital uncle house and stay alone in the floor with mattresses, not to touch and move anywhere except that room and that place and even not to look at the sun until 12th day of the first mensuration time.”
“Yes, I was to stay in same room in 22 days since it was my first one. I wasn’t allowed to enter kitchen and temple as well as touch any guys.”
“Yes I was hidden in a dark room for 4 days. I was prohibited for looking male member of family and even sun.”
The younger generation is slowly discarding the old, social taboos and the situation of girl surrounding the concept of menstrual cycle is getting better. 13 respondents out of 20 responded that they are not considered untouchable or impure when people around them find out that they are menstruating. However, the wrongful concept still prevails as the remaining 7 respondents agree that they are seen as impure and untouchable during their period and thus cannot touch family members especially the male.
“No, I’m never considered ‘impure’ or ‘untouchables’ when people around me know about it.”
“While being around people around may be family or relatives, I am not allowed to touch everywhere and people, kitchens and strictly temples.”
“I am considered as impure and untouchable at my mamaghar, not here at my home”
Social taboos that consider menstruating woman dirty, impure and untouchable, the taboos that associate a natural biological process with shame, impurity and disgust, are underlying cause and reason to ridiculing women and imposing restrictions wide range of restrictions on them. Except for 3 respondents, all the remaining respondents i.e. 85% are bound to follow certain restrictions imposed by their family or society when they are menstruating. Various restrictions as experienced and responded by the respondents were restriction on visiting a place of worship (85 percent), cooking food & touching utensils (15 percent), touching male members of family (10 percent), entering kitchen (10 percent) and others (35%) includes restrictions on touching plants, home-made pickles or no restrictions.
(D) Personal Conceptions and Perspectives:
When it comes to having a perspective on menstruation be it on the part of male or female, it has always been a negative one. When asked to define menstruation cycle and their idea on it, majority of the respondents responded to define menstruation cycle by associating it with words like “impure”, “dirty”, “damaged”, “unwanted”, “waste”, “painful”, “stressful”.
Today, people have started to talk about menstruation and teach their daughters, sisters, girl students about it but not on a scale that is satisfactory and enough. Stigma around this issue is still causing hesitation and embarrassment to even discuss about it. Among the respondents, only 60% had some idea about menstruation before they first experienced it while nearly half i.e. 40% of the respondents didn’t know about it until they actually had it. For those who had some ideas, their source of information was mainly their sisters, friends and for few their mother.
The respondents when asked if they consider impure physically or spiritually when they are menstruating, majority of them (60%) believed they don’t consider themselves impure because it is just a natural biological process and reality for every girl. However, the 35% of the respondents considered themselves impure only physically and only one respondent saw herself spiritually impure.
“I dont think its impure, if it was then goddess could also be considered impure – once a month”
“Not at all. Physically, its just as normal as sweating or urinating. Its just a discharge from our body. And since its a natural process, it makes no sense to me to consider myself spiritually impure.”
“Well, rather than considering physically impure, I feel that I’m more impure spiritually because in my society there’s a saying that girls having their periods are impure so they cannot go inside the room where we worship god. So maybe it is psychological for me to believe in it too.”
When asked the respondents on what they feel about the restrictions imposed on them during their period, all the respondents expressed that it is absolutely unfair and illogical to follow such taboos that consider them impure and untouchable. Few reasoned such restrictions as historically a way of taking care of girls and women by not allowing them to enter kitchen and do household works so that they can take rest. However all of them have showed their dismay and disapproval on such impositions based on impurity and untouchability.
“Absolutely not. It is totally unfair for anybody to shame girls for such a natural thing. We don’t choose it, it is innate. No shame. Logically, if you are imposing the restrictions considering the physical health of a woman during her period, yes it is logical, but if those restrictions are made with a view that girls are impure, that makes no sense to me at all.”
“Originally, these restrictions were applied so women could have some rest, so it is logical. But now they are forcefully made to follow these in an uncomfortable way saying them to be impure, which is unfair.”
“It is unfair but i think it has some logic (although it may not be legitimate) , if a female doesnot focus on personal hygiene during those , she might “contaminate” . but then again this is my logic as to why people make such restrictions , and i dont mean to support this belief.”
It has also been observed that girls have little affection for their period. Only 25 percent say that they enjoy their period in some ways, while strong majorities view it as something they simply have to put up with (75 percent agree). Worse yet, many believe it puts them at a disadvantage in today’s society. A strong majority of women feel that men have a real advantage because they do not have a period (85 percent agree). Women are not ashamed of their period – most of them do not feel any need to hide the fact that they get their period or have to purchase pads and tampons – they just see it as a major inconvenience. However 25 percent of respondents said they preferred not to talk openly about menstruation and 35% of them said they were embarrassed to purchase menstrual products which itself speaks on how girls still feel suppressed about their period.
When asked what their ideal menstrual interval would be, more than half, 55 percent, would prefer never to have it at all, remaining would choose to have a period less frequently than once a month (45 percent).
4.3 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Menstruation cycle has historically been a very sensitive topic that nobody wants to talk about it, neither men nor women. The stigmatization of this issue has had it stronghold in the societies across the globe that it still prevails on a large scale. And Nepal being an underdeveloped country where majority of the people are uneducated, it doesn’t come as a surprise to witness practices based on the taboos and superstitions surrounding the issue of menstruation.
This research has been able to shed some light on the physical, psychological and social implications of menstruation on girls and women and what they think of various factors surrounding it. Girls have to go through several medical conditions during their period as a result of which, their normal functioning in their personal, academic and professional lives is hampered.
Similarly, most of them remember being scared, anxious, disgusted and stressed out when they first had their period. Most of them have mood swings and fears of staining, wearing lights clothes, others seeing their pad.
As a result of social stigma and social taboos related to menstruation, several restrictions were and are imposed on them like restricting from visiting place of worship, entering kitchen, touching utensils or cooking, touching male members in family, etc. Similarly, while many didn’t, some girls did struggle and experienced days of seclusion during their first period which was a psychological trauma for them as a minor girl.
Girls themselves had a negative perspective on menstruation and had little or no affection for it. They see it as a burden, as a disadvantage that men don’t have, however majority of them are not ashamed of that the fact that they have period, see no need to hide it. And as much as they dislike it, they find it unfair and illogical for anybody shame and ridicule them based on it.
From the data collected and analyzed, it can be concluded that the main objective of this research has been met with finding out and studying various physical and psychological impacts of menstruation on girls along with the social impacts and how they view menstruation cycle as.
4.4 RECOMMENDATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
Need to reject the taboos:
The best way to get rid of these taboos is to not follow them and ignore. Social taboos are created by human being and thus the power to dismantle those lies too in the hands of humans. Girls and women are the one who are the victims of such taboos and if they want to do away it, they themselves have to rise and have the courage to reject these taboos first and stop self-inflicting and self-devaluating themselves. And it is in the hands of every girl and woman to say no to the restrictions, to the shame-game, to the ridiculing, to the fear and to the embarrassment.
Need to normalize the issue:
Challenging the shame and secrecy surrounding the menstrual cycle, encourages embodied consciousness. There is a need to talk about this issue more so that people can do away with the myth by bringing in and learning more rational and logical concepts about the cycle. People are not comfortable talking about it and thus talk about it only in secrecy. Thus it is extremely important to normalize the issue so that there can be more acceptability, flexibility and openness among people to talk about it on a wider range in the society to tackle the taboos associated with it. For this, there are different roles to be taken:
- Family, especially mothers and sisters should teach their daughters and sisters about this cycle and give them emotional and psychological support instead of labeling them impure and isolating them for days.
- Teachers should give enough information to the girl students on menstruation so that when they actually experience it, they would be to some extent mentally and technically prepared on how to handle the situations.
- Interdisciplinary menstrual cycle research in academic field, especially studies that explore the psychosocial dimensions of menstruation in diverse cultural settings can be of great scope.
- Government organizations, NGOs and INGOs can strengthen their role in creating awareness on it, by initiating discussions on it where girls and women can speak about their experiences and views.