Why is menstruation a taboo?

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 09 Dec 2017

In this photograph taken on February 3, 2017, Nepalese women keep warm by a fire as they live in a Chhaupadi hut during their menstruation period in Surkhet District, some 520km west of Kathmandu. - AFP

PETALING JAYA: Although menstruation is a natural process, many women still speak in hushed tones when it comes to speaking about “that time of the month”.

Aminah Rahman, 33, comes from a traditional Muslim family and she never talked about menstruation with her mother.

“I got my period when I was 12. I didn’t know what it was. There was blood coming out, and I freaked out and was in denial. I didn’t say anything to anyone,” she said.

Her mother then noticed the blood stains and told her that she was a “big girl now”. 

“I never had the talk with my parents about menstruation or sexual reproduction. I had to find that out on my own,” she said.

Gender and religious studies associate professor at Monash University Sharon Bong said that menstruation is considered a taboo topic among many households largely because of the mindset that it is “dirty”.

In some countries in South Asia, women are considered sources of pollution to the point of them being ostracised during their periods.

Chhaupadi is a social tradition that dates back centuries and has its roots in Hindu taboos over menstruation. 

“Women are isolated and separated from their families in tiny menstruation huts, which are small ramshackle buildings that often have no door, no windows, and poor sanitation and ventilation,” said Bong.

“Women who are on their periods are forbidden from touching other people, livestock, plants, fruits and vegetables,” she said. 

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